The bushfire situation in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has worsened significantly in the last 40 years. In the early 1980s, malicious and spiteful lighting of fires was rampant, particularly along the Lyell Highway, although this human malevolence seems to have largely abated. Accidental ignitions from campfires and other human folly require vigilant controls, but they are not the most significant threat. Since the early 2000s fires started by dry lightning have become the most significant concern.
The state government recently released a discussion paper ‘Reforming Tasmania’s Planning System: a position paper on the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendments Bill 2014’ to selected stakeholders requesting their comments. The Planning Position Paper includes numerous proposals – I estimate more than half – which were not mentioned in the Liberals’ election policy on planning. Other included proposals are justified as being delivery of a ‘Fairer, Faster, Cheaper and Simpler Planning System’ but the rationale is less than convincing.
The Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry was released in early October and briefly enlivened the public debate about bushfire management and, in particular, fuel-reduction burning. Sadly, the debate has quickly died down and there is little pressure on the state government to show leadership to improve bushfire management.
Several related wildlife themes have surfaced in the recent past: ways in which our cities and suburbs turn some animal species into winners or losers (Low 2002); a trend for some species to adapt to habitat or landscape-scale changes (TPC 2010) and how landowners might best manage the major problem of browser impacts (Greening Australia 2003). Are we creating winners and losers by appropriating wildlife habitat? What is the current position? The Hobart suburb of Fern Tree may be an instructive example here.
The Tasmanian Government response to the February 2009 Victorian bushfires has been slow, patchy, self-congratulatory and in some cases misleading. It has been largely guided by the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) final report, published in July 2010, and the Victorian Government responses to that report.