ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON ST PATRICK’S DAY FIRES

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Energy and concerns the anniversary of the St Patrick’s Day bushfires and the total inaction by this government to prevent such events occurring again.

  • One year ago, 23 houses, 40,000 hectares of land and 10,000 head of livestock were tragically burnt in the fires that raged throughout Garvoc, Terang, Hawkesdale and Camperdown, in the Western Victoria Region.

  • Broken livelihoods and mental health issues still abound. 

  • I was a Cr of the Corangamite Shire at the time and I pay tribute to all volunteers, Council employees, charity and church personnel and the Corangamite Shire Mayor, Jo Beard for her leadership in the crisis.

  • We were incredibly fortunate that no lives were lost. No doubt in part due to the valiant efforts of our brave CFA fire fighters.

  • ‘Electrical elements’ exacerbated by strong winds were deemed responsible for sparking the fires. Faulty power poles and stretches of ‘out of control roadside vegetation’ combined to devastate communities in Western Victoria.

  • However, since this horrific event the obvious question remains: what action has the Minister taken to prevent such loss or injury to land, property, livestock and life, from occurring again?

  • Rural areas are still littered with faulty power poles.

  • However, now we have new cheap imported power infrastructure connecting wind towers that are failing. Today near Noorat one of these new live lines collapsed onto long grass beside a farm already affected by last year’s fires.

  • The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission recommended that power lines be replaced with aerial bundled or underground cabling. With massive numbers of new wind tower power lines being erected and many of the 600,000 existing power poles requiring replacement, when is the Commission’s ruling being activated?

  • The red tape surrounding the management and reduction of roadside vegetation continues to pose fire risk with shoulder-high dry fuel, just as it did on St Patrick’s Day.

I call on the Minister to guarantee that energy transmission will be provided with safe infrastructure, including underground cabling and in a safe roadside environment.

21 March 2019