Grazing for fire fuel reduction purposes was back on the agenda in State Parliament this week with Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, welcoming the comments of eminent bushfire scientist David Packham, who labelled the Minister’s claims on the matter a “falsehood”.
Speaking on the National Parks Amendment Bill, Mr Bull said “the Minister has said the science was clear in relation to cattle grazing not being an effective bushfire mitigation tool, but this is not true according to Mr Packham, who many regard as our most respected specialist on fire research.”
“David Packham OAM, MAppSci, has worked for 50 years in bushfire research in CSIRO, Monash University, the Australian Emergency Management Institute and in fire weather policy at the Bureau of Meteorology.
“His extensive research (61 publications) is acknowledged world-wide and is possibly the most eminent knowledge base in the country on fire related matters. His comments are as follows:
“The Minister is claiming that there exists ‘extensive scientific research’ and that ‘the science is clear’. On the subject of grazing and fuel reduction, adequate scientific work just does not exist in any credible form.
“It is a falsehood to pretend that it does so. The Minister’s comments in Parliament imply wider scientific work that has been done in the Alpine area automatically supports this Legislation. It does not.
“I have grave concerns about the veracity of the small amount of completed scientific work that is available on the subject of grazing and fire threat. The methodology used to develop this work is questionable.
“Minister Neville, in attempting to deal with the politically difficult issue of Alpine ecology and its relationship to one grazing activity has no doubt listened to advice that is politically based, rather than taking notice of the experiential and theoretical evidence, the whole evidence and nothing but the evidence.”
Mr Packham then went on to list eight reasons as to why the recently scrapped grazing trial should continue and these included:
• By evicting cattle, a great and harmful error may have been made, but by terminating the trial when more and better research is needed is intellectual, environmental and civilised vandalism.
• Leaving the High Country and the Red Gum forests to become fuel clogged without grazing and burning in the absence of rigorous evidence is a disgrace.
Mr Bull told Parliament of several studies in the United States of very recent times that concluded grazing reduces fire risk and spoke of public land grazing currently going on in several European countries on public land, as it is considered an effective control measure.
“I also note the comments from Professor Mark Adams, a respected expert on fire related matters from the University of Sydney, who said that he does not agree with assertions that no further research is needed and in fact recommended research be expanded in this area.
“Yet we have a Minister who says the ‘science is in’ on grazing being an effective fire management tool. She is just plain and simply wrong.
“Not only is it going ahead in other countries as a fire control measure, but there are independent experts and independent studies showing it is an effective method of fire mitigation.
“It is also worth noting that in this trial we were talking about 60 cattle in carefully selected areas, but the Government halts this research quoting damage, but makes no mention of the tens of thousands of Sambar deer, brumbies and feral pigs and goats on the same land.”
Mr Bull said that although the legislation passed through the Lower House today he was hopeful it would be defeated in the Upper House.