South West's Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program given $22 million boost

Yallingup Rural Volunteer Bushfire Brigade's Allan Yardley on a prescribed burn in Meelup Regional Park. Image supplied.
Yallingup Rural Volunteer Bushfire Brigade's Allan Yardley on a prescribed burn in Meelup Regional Park. Image supplied.

Environment minister Stephen Dawson has announced a $22 million funding boost for the South West's Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program will be allocated in the next state budget.

The current funding was due to expire on June 30 this year, the program will now continue to be funded over the next four years, with $5.5 million a year going towards the program.

Research has shown that prescribed burning is effective in reducing the frequency and size of bushfires in South West forests, when at least 45 per cent of the landscape has a fuel age of less than six years since last burnt.

To reach its target in the three South West forest regions it manages, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Parks and Wildlife Service aims to prescribe burn at least 200,000 hectares each financial year.

The Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program has helped the department achieve this target for the past two consecutive financial years, as it allows for greater flexibility in the use of seasonal staff and contracted local suppliers, such as heavy machinery operators.

Environment minister Stephen Dawson said with this significant investment from the 2019-20 State Budget, the DCBA could continue to deliver community safety and biodiversity outcomes.

"We have a further boost for the next four years, which is great," he said.

"We are committed to reaching our prescribed burning target every year so this amount will help towards that, and it is also in addition to the $11 million in the prescribed burning allocation for the South West.

"This additional funding allows us to do that enhanced work, and it is really helping to protect South West communities.

"We try to meet our target every year and over the last couple of years we have done that, we are beholden to climate and the weather which makes it challenging given the increasing number of wineries and beekeepers in the South West.

"It is important for us to fit in and work with industry so there is no adverse impact on them.

"At the end of the day we really need to protect communities in the South West and I am really pleased for four years we can continue to do the good work.

"We have some great people at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions undertaking the burning so this means they can continue to do that good work for the next four years."

"More than 104,000 hectares of prescribed burning has been conducted across the department's three South-West forest regions this financial year,.

"If favourable autumn weather continues, the department will be well positioned to achieve its 200,000 hectare annual prescribed burning goal."

The state government had come under fire earlier this month from the Nationals WA after it was revealed there was $2.1 million less this year for the Royalties for Regions funded program.

The program funded under the previous state government was allocated $20 million across four years starting in 2015-16.

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said he welcomed the announcement and was very pleased the state government would be extending the program for a further four years.

Mr Redman said the funding announcement would bring confidence back to South West communities which rely on the program to stop landscape burns in their regions.

South West MLC Steve Thomas said he was very pleased with the announcement and fully expected the program would have been funded in the next state budget.

Dr Thomas said it was good to see the program receive $5.5 million each year over the next four years.