Government is ‘worst neighbour in a fire’, says Hurford boss
THE boss of a long-running timber company on the Northern Rivers has taken aim at the state and federal governments over their "neglect" of the landscape when it comes to preventing bushfires.
Hurford Hardwood director Andrew Hurford, who is also chairman of Timber NSW, said he had lost many kilometres of fencing along plantations which were adjacent to state and Commonwealth land.
He said the government was not undertaking its responsibilities, such as clearing their side of a joint fence line, to ensure its properties did not impact on neighbouring properties.
"With any other neighbour, you look after your side and they look after theirs, but that's not how it works with the government," he said.
"The government is the worst neighbour to have during a bushfire."
Mr Hurford said money should be spent on cool-weather reduction burns.
"A stitch in time saves nine," he said.
"We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fight bushfires when for years we have underspent on hazard reductions during the off-season."
Mr Hurford said he had no quarrel with the "people of the ground" who work for National Parks and State Forestry departments, as well as all firefighters.
"The people on the ground, including the firefighters, are doing the best they can and they are as frustrated as we are," he said.
Instead, he said the problem was the people at the top who refused to fund work which would minimise future bushfires.
"Currently there are massive fuel levels in these state parks and crown lands and the government is not prepared to help you out with a fire break or fencing," he said.
Recently Hurford Hardwood lost an entire plantation, plus surrounding native forest, at Ellangowan from the Busby's Flat Road fire.
"Other plantations impacted are the one at Rappville, and one at Bungawalbin is also impacted by the Myall Creek Road fire," Mr Hurford said.
"We won't know which trees will survive until we get some rain."
However, a spokesman for NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service disagreed with Mr Hurford.
"Over the last four years, 75 per cent of all prescribed burning across the state has been carried out in national parks," he said.
The spokesman said NPWS also maintained an extensive network of fire trails.
"Where damage to a standard boundary fence with an adjoining landowner has occurred as a result of bushfires, NPWS typically enters into a fencing agreement under which NPWS covers costs associated with fencing materials and the landholder covers the cost of erecting the fence," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile a Forestry Corporation spokesman said as a formal firefighting authority, it played a key role in frontline firefighting and strategic fire management.
"Each year, Forestry Corporation carries out fuel reduction activities in more than 350,000 hectares of state forest, which is around 17 per cent of the state forest estate."
The spokesman said this included around 20,000 hectares of hazard reduction burning and more than 330,000 hectares used for grazing.
Hazard reduction activities are planned in collaboration with the Rural Fire Service and local Bush Fire Management Committees to protect communities.
"In the past few years, as part of its hazard reduction program, Forestry Corporation has been working with Aboriginal communities to carry out low-intensity burns using traditional methods," the spokesman said.
"Earlier this year, Forestry Corporation was the first agency in NSW to trial drones for aerial ignition of hazard reduction burning in strategic locations."