Tasmanian bushfire season 2017: East Coast needs 're-think'

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An East Coast mayor has called for a re-think on the management of former forestry land, saying its current condition poses a bushfire risk.

The recently released Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook said the state’s East Coast had an “above normal fire potential” for the 2017 season.

It is the third year in a row the coast has been labelled as a potential bushfire danger zone.

Break O’Day mayor Mick Tucker believes one of the biggest factors that could lead to a catastrophic bushfire event is the worsening state of the forestry reserves in the area, which, since the collapse of the industry, have been managed by Parks and Wildlife Services rather than industry bodies.

Councillor Tucker said the access roads and infrastructure that are in the reserves used to be well maintained when the forestry industry was in its heyday, but had now fallen into poor conditions, with some inaccessible.

“There may be another way in, but it’s a lot longer way in and the fire has gotten away from us,” Councillor Tucker said.

“We have less of an opportunity to fight it in its early stages.”

He said the collapse of the industry also meant the area lost a lot of machinery, which could be vital to bushfire fighting efforts.

Councillor Tucker said he would like to see Parks and Wildlife Services come under the banner of the council, so the two could combine resources, manpower, and money to create the best state of bushfire preparedness.

“[I would like] the state government to actually put Parks under council in the area, and fund the council so we can use our machinery and manpower to get some things done that need to be done,” he said.

It is not an arrangement the state government would be considering, a government spokesperson said.

“While we appreciate the council’s concerns, Parks already works co-operatively with the Tasmania Fire Service and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to identify high-risk areas and undertake co-operative programs in the areas of fuel reduction and maintenance of fire trails,” a statement from the spokesperson read.

Councillor Tucker said burn-offs in the coastal area, run by Parks, had helped to prepare the area for the bushfire season. The TFS will hold briefings and statewide exercises in the lead-up to peak fire season.