The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says regional and rural Victorians need to get fired up by the rapidly increasing risk of unmanaged roadside vegetation.
Mr Walsh says everyone living in those areas understands the threat from fires being started on roadsides where grasses and weeds are allowed to grow unchecked.
He says anything from a discarded cigarette butt to broken glass from bottles thrown out of passing cars can cause a grass fire to break out and when the fuel load is tinder dry it will spread “incredibly quickly”.
“As usual the Andrews Labor government has shown it does not have even the slightest inkling of the risks regional and rural Victorians face as a matter of day-to-day living,” Mr Walsh says.
“If they had even the slightest clue they would not once again have treated regional and rural Victorians with such disdain, providing a miniscule amount of money to councils to help control roadside weeds and pests, claiming it will help reduce the spread of fires,” Mr Walsh says.
“Put simply, Labor has again failed to recognise how its own mismanagement has contributed to increased roadside fire risks,” he says.
“Even worse, this government continues to actively subvert the management of roadside fire risks by not completing slashing and mowing programs on time, and through introducing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy that make it difficult for the CFA to complete fuel reduction burns.
“This is a government that thinks it is acceptable to wait until the height of summer to slash roadside vegetation on some of the busiest regional roads in my electorate of Murray Plains – and talking to other Nationals Members around the state they are reporting the same mismanagement.”
Mr Walsh says even people pulling off the road to have a meal, use a phone or for any other reason will almost certainly be in cars with catalytic converters, and they are notorious for starting fires in dry grass.
He says this happened last year, when the Department of Transport and councils finally completed slashing work along some of the major routes but only because n the roadside vegetation had become so high in some areas that drivers could not see oncoming traffic.
“It’s also the same government that has actively hindered the CFA’s efforts to prepare annual roadside firebreaks,” Mr Walsh added.
“These play a pivotal role in fire prevention, yet despite some of the most vigorous grass growth in years, government bureaucracy is making it harder for this vital work to occur on state government-managed roads,” he says.
“Long-standing arrangements for CFA volunteers to prepare firebreaks – at no cost to the government – have been replaced with heavy restrictions, necessitating lengthy plans in addition to standard permits, and the presence of a ‘burn controller’ before any work is undertaken.
“In many cases, the local brigades undertaking the work have far more experience in break-burning than those who have completed a burn controller course.
“It’s ludicrous, and just shows that Labor and its city-based ministers do not listen to their communities and really have no clue when it comes to recognising where the major threats lie.
“While they hide behind flashy announcements, our communities wrestle with government incompetence that prevents volunteers from being able to adequately protect their communities.
“Only a Nationals and Liberals government will work with local communities to ensure fire risks are effectively managed.”