Following the horrific Black Saturday bushfires in February this year, this summer is shaping up to be another bad bushfire season. This time, though, lessons have been learnt and authorities are applying these lessons to save lives.
November 2009 has been an unusual month in Victoria – Melbourne’s hottest November on record and the wettest since 2004. Of course, as all of us know, rain plus sunshine equals massive vegetation growth, which equals fuel, and therefore potential for bushfires.
Part of the appeal of living in bushfire-prone areas is, well, bushland. Close to trees, to nature, to wildlife. Unfortunately, it also means being close to what could turn into another Black Saturday.
There’s no doubting organisations are learning lessons. Both the CFA and Victoria’s other government entity Department of Environment and Sustainability (DSE) have stepped up their campaigns leading into the bushfire session. Although criticisms were rife last week over a ‘false fire warning’ being broadcast (it was a test), at least it got people talking about what’s to come when dealing with a real fire. That ‘mistake’ has potentially caused more good than harm.
Before the fires, ‘wayward’ property owners clearing trees were vilified. Not so now though. The government has introduced interim planning provisions which allow property owners to clear native vegetation around their houses, fences and properties without a planning permit. And one of the benefits is that there’s less red tape. Importantly too, these new planning provisions give more rights to landowners – ‘it’s my land’ is a common cry from frustrated landowners.
Herein lies a potential problem. After Black Saturday, hugely important wildlife corridors were wiped out. Now, it’s uncertain whether or not they will be re-established; and this is where balance is needed. Animals are part of the balance of nature – they are also one of the reasons that people build where they build.
Despite what is espoused, until ‘the smoke clears’ no-one really knows the impact that the bushfires, clearing and future policies will have on wildlife. There are several highly experienced organisations working towards securing animal habitats. Unfortunately, they do not always work cohesively. This is not a criticism, simply a fact.
One of the goals of the Adore Animals Foundation is to work with these organisations (including government) to help find a way forward. Of course, this is a long-term plan. In the interim, there’s lots of work that can be done to help animals now. Despite the imminent vegetation growth, there are still many animals needing food, shelter and care.
This is where we also come in. Through the sales of our book, Moments of Connection, we aim to provide organisations on the front line with food, equipment and resources to help save these animals. In the longer term, we aim to work with them all to provide a cohesive, integrated and holistic strategy.
After all, as history shows, no single organisation has the knowledge nor the resources to do it all themselves, but together we just might.