Fuel load warning for Dunsborough

KIM KIRKMAN,Busselton Dunsborough Times

Dunsborough is “sitting on a knife edge” with high fuel loads and surrounding State forest posing a bushfire risk to the area, South West MLC Nigel Hallett has warned.

In a speech to Parliament last week calling on the State Government to urgently review its prescribed burning programs the Liberal Senator said Dunsborough, Pemberton and Denmark were at heightened bushfire risk from surrounding forest.

He told the Times Dunsborough was “very vulnerable” due to the amount of subdivisions in the area. “A lot of five acre-type housing subdivisions are going into those areas, all with one thing in common — they’re surrounded by State forest, ” he said.

Mr Hallett said WA was on the cusp of a bushfire disaster due to heavy fuel loads around Pemberton and Margaret River in the order of 40 tonnes per hectare and increasing at an annual rate of more than two tonnes per hectare.

He said the time between burns in those areas had increased from six to eight years to about 12 to 14 years and hectares burnt annually had dropped from 300,000 in the 1980s to 100,000 per year currently.

“I would like to see DPaW get its burning program back on track with at least 200,000 hectares of South West forest burned annually, including high-value areas in the Karri Forest, and the parks and reserves close to residential areas, ” Mr Hallett said.

A DPaW spokeswoman said it wasn’t possible to characterise fuel loads around Busselton and Dunsborough to tonnes per hectare as they varied significantly with vegetation type and condition.

She said the department’s autumn prescribed burning program was still ongoing.

As of June 13, DPaW had completed or started 21 burns comprising 21,788 hectares in the department’s South West region, compared to 4422 hectares (12 burns) completed or started at a similar time last year.

“At this stage, Parks and Wildlife has planned prescribed burns in Yelverton National Park to the south of where a prescribed burn was carried out last November and Abba State forest, ” the spokeswoman said.

City of Busselton environmental services manager Greg Simpson said the City did not have a target burn program, but its fire-management plan for Dunsborough and Yallingup priority reserves, using a variety of methods including slashing, spraying and burning, was ongoing and on schedule.

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