the fires of February 2009

[most recent materials at the top]

[Sept 2009]


 rebuilding green?

An enormous cement shed is the new gateway to Kinglake National Park.

It replaces a modest timber garage destroyed in the February bushfires,
and local residents are angry that it has been allowed under planning
decisions designed to speed rebuilding.

There is a great piece on this from The Age available here.

[Sept 10]

Burnoffs would not have helped, scientists say

Prescribed burns did not significantly slow the spread of bushfire in the catastrophic conditions of Black Saturday, states a new report
released in September.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), The Wilderness Society and the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), analyses the driving influences of the February 7 fires and looks at how the fires passed through and affected different areas of land. It has been submitted to the Royal Commission. 

The report can be found here


[September 2009]

 Living with the Bush coalition formed


Improving community safety in the face of increasing risk from bushfires is not a choice between human welfare and environmental integrity. This is a false choice and if pursued will result in giving people a false sense of security while ignoring other more important safety measures.

Most recently this false choice has been played out in the Victorian Governments announcement of the 10/30 rule. This rule grants people permission to clear all vegetation including trees to within 10m of their house, other vegetation to within 30 metres of their house and clear to 4m of a property boundary without a planning permit.

The consequences of this new 'right' will be many wrongs and the evidence that this will reduce bushfire risk doesn't stack up.

There are many people in areas like the Dandenong Ranges that have been fighting for decades to preserve the environment. Hills residents have always lived with the dangers of fire. In the past, risk has been managed by sensible low level burns, education and people taking responsibility for their own safety without destroying the features which attract many of us to these places. Protecting people and the environment have always coexisted here.

All this will change with 10/30.

The Living with the Bush Coalition aims to bring together people and groups that believe areas like the Dandenong Ranges are worth fighting for. As a Coalition, we can be one voice to fight the government on the 10/30 rule.

Please check the website for details, and to endtse the Living with the Bush charter:


[August 17, 2009]

community concern over tree clearing turns to protest

August 17: This morning, residents from Kinglake and surrounding areas held a community protest to draw public attention to the unnecessary logging and removal of native trees and vegetation in the Kinglake Ranges by contractors working for the Murrindindi Shire.

Starting at 6am, community members displayed banners and placards, handed out leaflets, and talked with people walking and driving by. The mood was friendly and relaxed (although cold, at least until the sun came out) and, judging by the waves, smiles and comments, most people were clearly supportive. This action has resulted from a growing sense of frustration at the lack of response to widespread community concern about over clearing of vegetation after the devastating fires of early 2009.

The call out to the community presence states "we have lost so much already - please help us save the precious and remaining undamaged native trees and vegetation we have left. A healthy and regenerating environment provides us with hope."

The community presence will continue during the day.

Organisers are asking the community to express its concern at over clearing by calling Murrindindi Council on 5772 0333.

UPDATE as at August 24, 2009: KANDO (Kinglake Action Network & Development Organisation) informs us that Murrindindi Council has agreed to site visits to areas with local residents, and has hosted a meeting with relevant authorities and communities to begin to resolve the problems.

This is a heartening development.

[August 5, 2009]

community meeting in Kinglake raises concern about over clearing after the fires

"The tree clearing has been worse than the fires" said a friend as I walked into the meeting at Kinglake Central. By the time proceedings started, around 140 people had pressed into the community hall to hear from a range of arborists, council representatives and contractors, and community representatives about the 'clean up' efforts after the fires.

It was clear there was a deep seated belief that the clearing had gone too far and too fast in 'cleaning up' after February's devastating fires. Themes kept emerging through the night - that forested areas were being trashed, habitat lost, there had been insufficient consultation with the local community before trees were removed. Residents spoke of having to race out the front of their homes to save trees that were being felled. Despite Council claims that there was an exhaustive system of assessing trees before marking them them for destruction, residents said that often far more trees were removed than had been identified as being unsafe. Some people, keen to see even more clearing, are said to be marking trees in the hope they will be taken out as the contractor teams move through the area. A range of contractors and jurisdictions are in operation, making it confusing about who is doing what. A number of people expressed frustration at hitting walls of bureaucracy when attempting to find out what was going on with the clearing. Many talked about their experiences of having areas they love destroyed by over clearing, like the man who talked about 50 metre sections being hacked into a reserve near Castella, without approval from the management committee. People kept saying that time hadn't been given to see if trees would survive, that pre emptive clearing had occurred.

There was particular outrage about the destruction at Number One Creek in Kinglake, a popular and beautiful area. Crews gutted this area, where trees hundreds of years old were cut down.

Others expressed concern about the township of Flowerdale being next to suffer the same damage. One comment from the floor seemed to sum up the sentiment of the meeting, that "there will be hundreds blockading the trees" if crews try to cut them.

People all seemed to agree that clearing and clean up had to happen because of public safety concerns. However, there was also a clear sentiment that the clearing had gone too far, too fast, was largely out of control, and that ecological values were being lost as 'safety' concerns over rode everything else.

It was an inspiring example of the power of community, of people finding their strength and holding a strong vision in spite of everything that has happened during and after the fires. The local landscape is being profoundly changed through the clean up efforts and the community will have to live with the actions being taken today for decades to come. There was a resounding message of "slow things down", take time to better assess what trees will survive, maintain the ecology as we make the place safe. Lets hope the Council can hear this message. The Kinglake community certainly deserve our support on this issue.

Cam Walker

[above:  Replanting day at Murrup Brarn Yarra Flats Billabongs, July 2009. Image: Samantha Dunn]



AFTER THE FIRESTORM : Bushfires and Climate Change

What role did climate change play in the Black Saturday fires?
How can we ensure Victoria is protected from extreme fire events?

Leading the discussion are Dr Patrick Wolfe, a historian whose home was consumed by fire on Black Saturday, Chris Breen a Solidarity climate activist and Steve Meacher, CEN Secretary and resident of Toolangi.

6.30 pm Tuesday April 7
Climate Action Centre
Lvl 5, New Building, Victorian Trades Hall
Cnr. Victoria & Lygon Streets, Carlton South*

Talk climate is a monthly forum and discussion on current and critical problems of climate change, hosted by Victoria’s new Climate Action Centre.

Wine and refreshments by donation.

Info: or 9639 3660

Hosted by the Climate Action Centre and supported by Friends of the Earth and Solidarity 


Extreme weather across Australia

Hope, despair and resilience

[Feb 2009]

It has been a hard summer for communities across Australia. Floods in Queensland, a relentless hot season across the southern states that saw dozens of people die, and now almost 200 people have perished and thousands left homeless from the bushfires in Victoria.

Like everyone else in the state we have been in a state of shock and sadness after the fires. A number of friends and members have been hit badly, some have lost their homes or had their properties burnt. There have been deaths amongst the environmental community. A number of others had close calls and days of tension as they waited for the fires to move through their area.

We extend our thoughts, our empathy and our solidarity to all those affected by the bushfires. The loss of life, habitat and property is tragic and will impact on our state for years to come.

Given the enormous human costs of the fires it is understandable that media coverage has focused on the loss and heroism of communities in the fire's path. But, of course, the ecological costs are beyond belief. From the thousands of animals killed and injured to the ecosystems that have been decimated, the costs are huge – and cumulative. Climate science tells us that we can expect more and more of these extreme events in coming years. Some sections of the Alpine region have now been burnt three times in the space of a half decade. From 'one in a fifty year' events it seems like major fires have become 'one in five' in nature. Incredibly rich (and rare) old growth has been burnt in the Central Highlands and elsewhere in these latest fires – including enclaves of remaining tall forest such as Deep Creek and Camberville. According to some reports, the magnificent and extensive old growth ash forests in the closed Wallaby creek catchment (near Kinglake West) were 'obliterated' in the fires. As yet it is not clear how badly all these areas really have been burnt.

When you think about this summers fires, and what the science tells us is coming, it is hard not to to give way to despair. I can see it amongst some who are campaigning against global warming. I see despair when I hear calls by some for geo engineering and nuclear power to deal with climate change. I see others throwing out notions of justice, as the only thing that seems to matter is the quickest way to reduce our emissions. I see it in calls to limit our immigration levels. I feel it when I see places that I love, that have nurtured me since I was a kid, destroyed – like the wonderful alpine ash forests of the Buffalo Plateau, which will never come back to an old growth stage in my lifetime. The natural world seems poorer and barer each summer, as we wait for the rains and sweat out the heatwaves. And then when I consider the services and support we have here amidst calamity – of fire and police and welfare and government departments – I feel keenly aware of others around the world who are suffering equally, yet without the social safety nets we have here.

But crisis can always be a time to re-define and re-affirm what it means to be human. Our ability to care for each other and show real and genuine solidarity and empathy and take the required action can guide us through this. This path is ours, if we choose it. Time is short – climate science tells us this, in ever more detail. We have no more time for business as usual. But action is always a better option than despair, or retreat into private worlds, or hopelessness. As I write these words, a most magical sound has started up, unexpected but welcome in an intense and beautiful way – of raindrops on an iron roof. Long may it pour!

Cam Walker

Some resources on bushfires and climate change

Climate change and its impact on the management of bushfire

Bushfire Weather in Southeast Australia: Recent Trends and Projected Climate Change Impacts
C. Lucas, K. Hennessy, G. Mills and J. Bathols,  Bushfire CRC and Australian Bureau of Meteorology
September 2007
Victorian briefing

[above: the eastern Strzeleckis, June 2009]

the Strzelecki Fires

In late January and early February arsonists set fires in the Darlimurla and Churchill regions of Gippsland. The fires destroyed almost 100 homes, had left 20 people dead, had burnt through almost 10,000ha of native forest, including the 300 hectare nationally significant Darlimurla Forest and 12,000 hectares of Hancock hardwood and pine plantations. Through sheer luck, the Darlimurla fire did not manage to sever Melbourne's power supply. A south westerly change was expected on the second day of the fire. This change, if it had eventuated would have pushed the fire into thousands of hectares of bluegum plantations in the Haunted Hills. The ensuring fire ball would have severed the Melbourne power lines that run through these plantations and put at risk the nearby Hazelwood and Yallourn North coal mines. Several towns including Morwell would also have been at risk.

Remarkably the Strzelecki cores and links rainforest reserve, which we have been campaigning for for over a decade, appears to have been completely missed by the fires, although the Churchill fire managed to gut Maryvale Pulp mills 'hardwood bread basket' located on the northern slopes of the Strzelecki Ranges. Possibly up to a decade worth of hardwood plantations have been burnt out, leaving a gaping shortfall for Australia's largest pulp mill. 
It is estimated that around 50% of bushfires in Victoria are lit by arsonists, and strong measures need to be enforced to make these people accountable for the damage that they do.  The Darlimurla and Churchill fires also highlight how dangerous it is for communities who live in such close proximity to plantations, because when they get enveloped into large fires, there is very little that can be done to put them out.  The arsonist who lit the Churchill fire on a 46C degree day in raging northerlies, if caught, should be charged with mass murder, as he/she now has the blood of over 20 people on their hands.

Further information at:

Anthony Amis

[Feb 8]

Like everyone else in Victoria we are in a state of shock and sadness after the fires. A number of friends and members have been hit badly, some have lost their homes or had their properties burnt. A number of others had close calls and days of tension as they waited for the fires to move through their area.

We extend our thoughts, our empathy and our solidarity to all those affected by this week's bushfires. The loss of life, habitat and property is tragic and will impact on our state for years to come.

In the longer term, we will all need to support communities as they rebuild. In the meantime, if you can, the most useful thing we can do is donate some money to the various appeals that are going on:

or call 1800 811 700

Of course, the toll on landscapes and animals has been horrendous. To support Wildlife Victoria, see

For injured animals contact 1300 094 535 (13 000 WILDLIFE) 24 hours.

For information on animals affected by fires, as well as how to help them in theforthcoming hot weather, please check here.

We hope that, wherever you are, you, your friends and families are safe.