Revamped Pines bushfire plan mooted

Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association president Dean Davies demonstrates his skills on the Pines mountain-biking trails earlier this year.

Warren Hately

Backroom discussions are likely to see a new and more intensive bushfire plan developed for the Pines and nearby national park north of Margaret River. Fears about a lack of comprehensive bushfire planning and the “potentially catastrophic risk” posed by the Pines to the Margaret River townsite were flagged earlier this year by former Shire resident Jamie McCall, sparking a rethink about moves to save the existing plantation for use by mountain bikers. Mr McCall told the Times he was “encouraged” replanting could be halted “to allow for proper fire management planning to take place before re-establishing the risk of a plantation north of Margaret River”. “It is essential that we look at the risks to Margaret River town before we have a catastrophic fire, rather than have an inquiry after the town is burnt to the ground,” he said. “The Shire’s (Bushfire Risk Management Program) process is tenure-blind and should therefore also be able to suggest land-use changes that could make Margaret River a safer place to live.” Last month, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors resolved to write to the Forest Products Commission to underline concerns about inaction on the Pines as well as the plan to replant the site with equally flammable trees. FPC provided a copy of its latest 2016-26 fire management plan to the Times which a spokeswoman said was “amended in response to recent community concerns”. “The document is a ‘live document’ that changes in response to evolving markets and stakeholder concerns,” a spokeswoman said. FPC acting general manager Gavin Butcher told the Times the Department of Parks and Wildlife was responsible for management of fire risks in FPC plantations as well as native forest areas. “The FPC is currently reviewing previous management plans for the Margaret Plantation with the objective of updating the plan to capture community, social, environmental and economic values offered by this asset,” he said. Mr Butcher said FPC welcomed involvement in the Shire’s BRMP and supporting the plan. FPC plantations followed DFESendorsed guidelines which aimed to provide “best practice fire-protection standards that aim to protect human life and local community interests, while minimising the fire risk to plantation assets,” Mr Butcher said, quoting from the Guidelines for Plantation Fire Protection. FPC would review its silviculture planning as part of BRMP planning. “FPC will work with Parks and Wildlife on the community protection strategies in this management plan, prior to being submitted to the Shire before the re-establishment of the currently fallow plantation areas,” Mr Butcher said.