Nancy knows best!

February 22nd, 2009

As someone who has spent most of her life in Victoria I was quite saddened to read the FCC Editorial of Wednesday 18/2/09 written by the Editor Nancy Bates

The Victorian climate and vegetation is markedly different from much of the Queensland vegetation and fires ‘down South’ have always claimed more lives and destroyed more property than areas more Northerly. Victorian summers are dry, hot and windy whereas Queensland summers are more likely to be humid and wet and windy. Grass around Hervey Bay spends far less time dry and yellow than the grasses down South do. When I first arrived in Bundaberg from Victoria I lived on acreage at the edge of town and well remember the day a fire started up near by. I ran around my house like a mad thing wondering if I had enough tennis balls to block up my down pipes etc, checking hoses and becoming quite frantic till I realised all my neighbours calmly going about their daily routine. Some time later the fire truck turned up and quickly put out the blaze. An experience so different to everything I had ever experienced growing up in Victoria that it got me thinking about the different threats fire bring to different areas of our countryside. A one size fits all approach is not the answer.

So back to the editorial. Ms Bates says that “the green madness has ‘nature lovers’ building thousands of lifestyle homes in the bush, delighting in the trees cuddling their homes and the birds and animals that were their friends. They have now been incinerated.”  The editorial concludes by stating that relatives of victims should not blame arsonists or power companies but that they should “look at the over powerful greenies threaded through bureaucracies, the environmentally concerned councillors and the weak politicians who created holocusts in a beautiful bush they never understood.”  There is also a statement that says ” ..the policy makers and leading greenies who have prevented controlled burning in rural Victoria should be considered accessories to manslaughter”

Very emotive and strong language which I would expect after a disaster of this proportion. I struggled with giving these words web space and further exposure but I think that to let them go unchallenged would distress me more. Victoria does have regular burning off activities. In fact property owners are required to keep their properties free of fire fuel. Please refer to 

or the Victorian Dept of Sustainability and Environment (if this link does not work). The restrictions to burning are primarily in relation to weather conditions as Victoria often has days called Total Fire Ban days where no one is allowed to light a fire in the open anywhere as the risk of fire is so great. When I part owned earth moving machinery we could not work the machines either on these days in case they caused a fire! So while burning off is an accepted practice in many areas it can only be done ‘when conditions allow’ otherwise burning off can create the fire situation that you are trying to prevent. You can’t burn during much of winter as it is usually too cold and wet and once the undergrowth grows there is only a small window of opportunity before summer sets in and burning anything anywhere is a madness.

Many people living in areas like Kinglake are not  necessarily ‘nature lovers’ but hard working urban dwellers with young kids and jobs and reside in these outlying areas more due to affordability than a love of nature. When viewing film of the devastation after the fires many burned houses were still surrounded by trees carrying green leaves! Usually however wind is the enemy. Fires travel at speeds unbelievable and are carried in the tree tops. The undergrowth and houses burn while the fire front is still racing ahead.

Environmentally concerned citizens and bureacrats and politicians don’t like to see humanity or wildlife or habitat destroyed. Fire destroys most everything  in its path. Fires aren’t choosy. As a result many of the ‘fire management plans’ now introduced are the work of environmentalists. You see a wild fire kills everything so why would a ‘greenie’ ever want to create an environment that endangered life?

I don’t like ‘burning off’ everywhere and all the time. I worry that soils are depleted and fragile life forms extinguished when fire is the constant visitor, but I also believe very strongly that to live close by the Aussie bush can only be done safely if the bush is managed carefully in the surrounding area. I also thought that in 1939 when many people died on Black Friday, there were no restrictions at all on ‘burning off’. In fact this article seems to blame burning off for causing fires.

I simply cannot believe that building restrictions have not been made tougher so that every dwelling has a fire proof cellar, shed or bunker. Green lawns need to be a part of the landscape around a house or other non flammable plants. A secure water supply not dependant on mains power should also be mandated. I could go on….

I’m sad. I’m sad for the families who have lost those dearest to them. I’m sad for the people who have survived but lost everything that they own. I am sad for the destruction of businesses and of livelihoods. I am sad for the wildlife and vegetation that has been destroyed. I am sad that for the rest of his life my son will mourn lives lost on what should be a happy day, his birthday. But most of all I am sad that some people are using their energies to cast blame and to point hurtful fingers at those who are not to blame. We do not yet know that any amount of burning off would have prevented this awful loss of life.

Let us use our energy to help the people left behind and let every bureaucrat, politician, ‘greenie’ and media reporter work together to ensure that lives are protected when fire happens. The one thing I know with all certainty is that if we want to share our planet with our ‘Aussie bush’ we have to learn to live with fire. I cannot see a day when fires will cease to be a threat.

5 Responses to “Nancy knows best!”

  1. Sadmanon 22 Feb 2009 at 8:14 pm

    G’day Sue,

    I agree with all of the above, knowing the D’nong ranges and Yarra Valley
    as well if not better than most, I would add the following.

    Many of the lost homes should never have been built. More importantly they
    should not be allowed to be re-built. Evacuation if required should be the day
    before, any one knowing the roads in the area, would now they are not suited
    to fast heavy traffic at the best of times, narrow, winding, drop-offs at the side,
    in many areas canopied by the trees and often banked on one side with no way
    of turning round.

    You are correct, we will never stop the fires, much simpler to remove the people.
    I wont tell of my experiences in the Lara fires of the ’60’s, suffice to say I would
    not wish it on my worst enemy.

    Governments need to act and act tough, some people need to be protected for
    their own good.


  2. The Protegeon 23 Feb 2009 at 1:02 pm


    The fact remains – by their own admissions, the Victorian government is substancially behind in fuel reduction operations and whilst we can not say if it contributed, it is the responsibility of us all to ensure our environment is kept in a condition that gives us the best possible chance of survival in freak events of nature.

    Victoria’s tragic losses should be a reminder to us all. Be Prepared!

  3. sueon 28 Feb 2009 at 12:36 am

    Emailed comment from Marilyn that I was permitted to post on her behalf.

    “I am appalled by the insensitivity displayed by Nancy Bates in her editorial (FCC 18-2-09) re the Victorian bushfire disaster.

    As a nature lover, bird watcher and a supporter of tree planting, I am also aware that clearing around houses in fire prone areas is an absolute necessity to preserve life and property.

    The Victorian councils are to blame for their restrictions and laws governing what property owners can and cannot do, and councillors are elected from all walks of life, not just from green supporters.

    To say that relatives of victims should look to the greenies for vengeance instead of arsonists or power companies and that “leading greenies . . should be considered accessories to manslaughter” is, I believe, completely irresponsible.

    This type of biased reporting from the Editor of a prominent neswpaper is totally unwarranted and can only encourage a hate campaign”.

    Marilyn Jacobs, Dundowran Beach

  4. Cliff Greeton 16 Mar 2009 at 5:25 am

    Nancy should write to the Victorian Government saying she can save ’em millions- she has all the answers.
    Yes, she has made very insensitive remarks and also very ill informed, as an ex Victorian visiting beautiful Marysville was one of my great winter treats – sitting inthe Cumberland,warm fire and snow all around.
    She does not appreciate that a lot of that beautiful country is snow covered for a greater part of winter and that hazard reduction burning poses far different problems.

  5. Geoffon 28 Mar 2009 at 5:18 am

    If clearing land near Melbourne in order to make houses safe from fire was restricted by “windows of opportunity” rather than by-laws imposed by local authorities influenced by “greenie” policies, why was one house owner subjected to a fine for clearing bush adjacent to his house? He was reported in the Press to be one of the few residents in or near Maryville who saved his house, family and self by carrying out illegal but very sensible actions.
    To live among the most inflammable, highly resinous trees in the world and not put a safe distance between them and yourself seems the height of folly. Have they not read the various histories of bush fires – 1939 etc when people were boiled alive in their water tanks? Have they not seem that wonderful painting by William Strutt in Melbourne’s Art Gallery which shows so graphically the panic of people who did not distance themselves sufficiently from potential danger in good time?
    Bates insensitive? Maybe, but from how much truth do we have to shield people especially when they plan to go back without assurances that the stupid bylaws against clearing will be changed?

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