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Adjournment: Forest Fire Management

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
7 June 2022

My adjournment this evening is to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. The action I seek from the minister is that she commission an independent review into a government burn-off that took place at the Mount Richmond National Park in late May. It has been raised in an adjournment discussion this evening previously as well. Following this burn, deeply concerning reports have come to light that multiple koalas were killed during the burn. It appears that two were killed and a further two had to be euthanised afterwards. After the devastation of the Black Summer fires and their impact on animals, it is horrifying to see more koalas killed by fire, only this time their death has been caused by our own government. That is why I am asking for an independent investigation into what happened. This incident should not have occurred; however, now that it has, Forest Fire Management Victoria and other government agencies involved must ensure similar tragedies do not happen in the future.

This government has an aggressive burning agenda and allocates hundreds of millions of dollars more to burning the state than it does to protecting and restoring our environment and threatened species. The incident at Mount Richmond raises many questions about the impact of government burning on our precious wildlife. In relation to this incident there are some key questions that must be answered, such as: what was done prior to the burn to identify wildlife, especially koalas, and keep them safe? Were there sufficiently qualified wildlife staff involved in this burn, both in the planning and when it took place? Was burning this area even the most appropriate management technique, and was the burn conducted in a suitable way? If it was meant to be a cool burn, why were tree canopies scorched and animals killed? And after a burn takes place, what management procedures does Forest Fire Management Victoria have to deal with injured wildlife?

Reports from Friends of the Earth suggest that trees where dead koalas were found had many koala scats beneath them, clearly showing that koalas were around, and if there were qualified wildlife staff involved, these staff would have been able to identify koala habitat and make sure burning did not occur in these areas.

I am aware that there are plans for further burning in the Mount Richmond National Park and even more outside in state forests. It is vital that the government learn from whatever went wrong here and make sure it does not happen in the future. This incident also begs broader questions about the impact of other burning activities on wildlife, and I will be asking questions on notice to obtain further information from the minister and the department. I ask the minister to commission an independent review into the burn-off.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
7 June 2022
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