Let's get some flaming sense into bushfire control

Australia burns while we fight over how to better deal with bushfires

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FOREST DEVASTATION: A bushfire almost obliterated this eucalypt forest on the Putty Road near Colo Heights north west of Sydney in late November.

FOREST DEVASTATION: A bushfire almost obliterated this eucalypt forest on the Putty Road near Colo Heights north west of Sydney in late November.

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Politicians love declaring national parks but hate spending enough money so they don't become havens for bushfires.

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The horrendous end-of-year mega blazes - particularly in national parks along the Great Dividing Range in NSW - should trigger a complete rethink on bushfire mitigation in Australia but I won't hold my breath.

Governments love declaring new national parks but hate spending enough money to manage them properly.

NSW, for example, now has 870 national parks and reserves covering seven million hectares.

Sydney is ringed by national parks and its inhabitants can now "see" (which has been difficult through the choking smoke) what happens when they aren't managed adequately.

Opponents and supporters have been arguing for decades about the value or otherwise of hazard-reduction burning in the cooler months to better control major bushfires in the hotter months.

The Aborigines had no trouble with it but they didn't have the luxury of jumping into four-wheel-drive utes to flee the flames.

Critics of hazard-reduction burning - and some of the loudest voices have been senior employees of state national parks and wildlife services - say the practice has limited merit.

Seriously? Unfortunately the main weapon against a raging bushfire is back burning which is extraordinarily damaging to fleeing animals which are suddenly caught between two fires.

Hazard-reduction burning is now a tool mainly used to protect villages and towns around national parks.

Burning is rarely done at any depth in national parks which offers little help to fauna and flora - the main reason why national parks are created in the first place - when a major fire erupts.

The tens of millions of dollars now spent trying to protect people and their property during bushfire emergencies would be much better invested in improving management of national parks.

Clearly much more effective methods need to be found and implemented to bushfire-proof towns and villages in the danger zone.

Having many of them surrounded by walls of eucalypt scrub is not a great idea, particularly with the climate getting drier and hotter.

At the very least residents living in major bushfire areas should be allowed to remove any large eucalypts within 40 metres of their homes without having to jump through hoops at their local council.

Local Government hasn't a particularly good record when it comes to common sense and bushfires. Likewise state and federal governments.

Back a few decades ago some "greenies" wanted to remove fire trails in national parks because they believed wilderness areas should be locked up and Mother Nature would take care of the rest.

The zeal for this kind of policy has waned in recent years but any real push for better bushfire protection policies - for humans, animals and plants - would almost certainly face a difficult journey to implementation.

We will continue to confront catastrophic bushfire emergencies while we keep doing the same thing and expecting the result to be different. More and more fire trucks and water-bombing aircraft are not the only answer,

Some experienced adults need to be put in charge of bringing much-needed change.

Let's create a bushfire mitigation control body with major powers and not controlled by people who want to maintain the status quo or be a road block to reform.

Australia's has become the world leader in bushfires. Let's become the world leader in reducing their impact.

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