The Victorian government will spend $517 million to deliver bushfire management and prevention measures, including a new office that will collaborate with other agencies and communities, and upgrades to firefighting technology.
The funding package is part of the upcoming state budget this month, and aims to help reduce the risk of future bushfires in a changing climate, according to energy, environment and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio.
“Our first responders and local communities band together to do an incredible job protecting Victorians throughout bushfire season,” she said in a statement.
“While we can’t ever thank them enough — we can invest in the equipment, technology and infrastructure they need to reduce the risk of the next bushfire season.”
Nearly $340 million will be provided to fund Forest Fire Management workers and firefighters while ensuring their technology, fire towers and equipment are ‘up to scratch’.
New digital radios to help Forest Fire Management Victoria staff avoid black spots and improve communication with other emergency services will be purchased with a $133 million commitment.
New agency to be established
In response to recommendations made by the Inspector General for Emergency Management and the bushfires royal commission — which both examined the 2019-2020 bushfires — $21 million will be provided to establish a new Office of Bushfire Risk Management.
The office will work with Forest Fire Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, Emergency Management Victoria, as well as local government, landholders, road authorities and the community to reduce the risk of bushfires on public and private land.
D’Ambrosio said the new entity would also have a key role in delivering recommended improvements to land and fire management.
Meanwhile, $15.6 million will fund measures to address long grasses and other highly flammable undergrowth, such as fuel management along major arterial road and rail corridors, additional planned burns, specialist skills and machinery, and advanced bushfire risk modelling.
Cultural land and fire-management practices
D’Ambrosio has also announced a $22.5 million investment to ‘reinvigorate’ Traditional Owner-led cultural land and fire management practices, by supporting Aboriginal Victorians to implement the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy.
She said the support for cultural burning would promote self-determination, reduce extreme fires, rejuvenate local flora, protect native animal habitats, and respond to weeds and pests.
“For tens of thousands of years, Traditional Owners and their knowledge of Country has been protecting and making the most of our natural environment,” D’Ambrosio said.
“With this investment, we’ll make sure Aboriginal culture and knowledge continues to inform the way the land is cared for.”
The funding will go towards establishing an Aboriginal-led Cultural Fire Leadership group, supporting Traditional Owners in sharing cultural burning techniques with state emergency services and conservation groups, and providing employment opportunities for First Peoples’ communities.