Figure 13 shows the residual risk profile for the Alpine and North East BRL for 1980–2019. It shows:
- residual risk in the landscape for 2015-16 was about 64%
- over the last few decades, residual risk has fallen sharply in response to several large bushfires close to townships including 2003 Alpine bushfires and the 2006–07 Great Divide bushfires
- after the 2006–07 Great Divide bushfires, planned burning kept residual risk at about 50% for five years
- in recent years residual risk has been increasing as fuel re-accumulates in areas burnt by recent major bushfires
- if conditions allow us to do all the planned burning scheduled in the FOP for the next three years, we project residual risk will decrease to about 48% by 2019: without planned burning, we project residual risk would be above 78% by 2019.
Figure 14 shows the TFI status and Figure 15 the GSS status of the vegetation on public land in the Alpine and North East BRL for 1991–2016. The figures show:
- in 2015-16 about 63% of the vegetation was below minimum TFI
- in 2015–16, about 1% of the vegetation was burnt by bushfire or planned burning while below minimum TFI, most of this by planned burning in the LMZ and BMZ
- over the past 15 years, several major bushfires have dominated the TFI and GSS trends including the 2003 Alpine bushfire, the 2006–07 Great Divide bushfires and the 2013 Harrietville bushfire; these bushfires have resulted in large and increasing areas of young vegetation
- from 2002–12, the proportion of the vegetation below minimum TFI tripled (from about 23% to about 69%); in the same period the proportion in the mature growth stage fell from about 47% to about 11% and the proportion in the younger growth stages rose from about 20% to about 70%
- in recent years, the proportion of the vegetation in the mature growth stage has increased to about 24%.
Because the affected vegetation types take a relatively long time to reach maturity, there will continue to be a large proportion of younger vegetation for some time.
During 2015–16, we conducted community engagement activities before, during and after the spring and autumn planned burning seasons to involve stakeholders and the public in planned burning decisions and to plan burns in consultation with other agencies and land managers.
Before each season, we met with individual members of the public and held neighbourhood and community meetings. We sent out letters and attended local events. During each season, we put up signs, doorknocked, sent the media information, sent out email notifications and followed up concerns people raised.
We increased our use of social media. For example, we posted a video about planned burns around Tawonga in the Ovens fire district to communicate the importance of planned burning in protecting local communities. Social media also enabled the community to question us.
After each season, we sought feedback from stakeholders and the public about the delivery of the program, to improve our practices.
While developing our FOP, we consulted widely and tried new ways to engage about fire management, not just about planned burning. In the Goulburn fire district, staff attended the Mansfield Do It! festival to discuss fire management, before the planned burning season.
In the Upper Murray fire district, staff met with Hancock Victorian Plantations when developing the FOP. They shared their risk mapping with the company, which used it to prioritise asset protection works.
In November 2015, we met (as we do annually) with north-east vignerons to share concerns, plan for the season and hear from experts about the latest smoke and grape research findings. We hold annual forums and field days with the North Eastern Apiarists’ Association and this year, in response to feedback, we made an agreement to provide timely, relevant communications. We are always seeking to improve and we used debriefs and evaluation questionnaires after each season.
Staff attend multi-agency fire awareness days at local schools and the local show during Resilience month, an initiative of Alpine Shire’s Community Resilience Committee that was formed after the 2009 bushfires. In 2016, the committee decided to communicate bushfire risk to tourism businesses and the community using risk analysis information and bushfire scenario workshops. In the Strathbogie Ranges, an independently facilitated community fire planning group was established.
Monitoring, evaluation and reporting
During the year, the newly appointed Landscape Evaluator led development of an MER plan for our landscape. The plan was approved in July 2016. Priority activities for the first year of the plan are fuel management on public land, which will be measured with overall fuel hazard (OFH) assessments.
In early autumn 2016, two district and two regional staff were trained in OFH assessments so we could conduct OFH monitoring at four planned burns. In all, we completed 40 pre-burn OFH assessments, 10 at each burn. We could not do post-burn assessments: wet weather prevented ignition at two of the burns and issues with planned burning in the Strathbogie Ranges prevented ignition at the other two. This meant these sites were not burnt and therefore could not be evaluated in 2015–16.
Public concerns about the loss of hollow-bearing trees as a result of planned burning led us to develop a pilot project to determine the collapse rate of these trees. Tree hollows provide important habitat for many animal species including, in the Strathbogie Ranges, the Greater glider (which is nationally listed as vulnerable) and the Powerful owl (state-listed as vulnerable). We established the project at two burns in the Strathbogie Ranges, trained two district staff and completed pre-burn assessments. The BRL team also helped district staff to consult widely and engage with the Strathbogie Emergency Fire Planning Group.
As part of the ongoing Landscape Mosaic Burning (LMB) Program in the Upper Murray District, 22 pre-burn LMB assessments were completed for Scrubby Thowgla LMB which was ignited in autumn 2016.