All landholders need access to safe, effective fire breaks, producers say

All landholders need access to safe, effective fire breaks, producers say


Landholders bordering public lands have the right to effective and safe fire breaks.


Landholders neighbouring public land should have the right to a safe and effective fire break along shared fence lines - that's the opinion of two south-west Victorian farmers.

Their message was highlighted when an 886-hectare blaze was stopped at their farm boundaries.

The pair said any inquiry into the current bushfire season needed to include a discussion about clearing fire breaks along boundaries between public and private land.

Dale Sullivan and son Alex and neighbour Bart Meinck and son Nathan, have country at Killara, about 20 kilometres south of Casterton, with a boundary to the Weecurra State Forest.

The Weecurra-Digby Strathdownie Road fire started on December 21 from a lightning strike.

The pair say that clearing either side of a recently erected "kangaroo fence" was a significant factor in stopping the blaze.

Fire maps show the fire was halted along the two farms' fence lines and the nearby Range Road.

Dale Sullivan said the clearing along the fence line, combined with on-ground fire fighting activities, air support and a "slight wind change", enabled the fire to be halted before it entered his farm.

The clearing along a five-kilometre fence line came as the pair sought to protect their grazing businesses from as many as 3000 kangaroos each night with an exclusion fence.

Mr Sullivan said the department was "pretty positive" about the fence and clearing each side of the fence.

"We went to the department with a plan to put up a kangaroo fence of about five kilometres in total that cost us around $80,000," he said.

The initial recommendation was to clear one metre on the public land side and three metres on the private side.

Mr Sullivan said they ended up with approval to take around seven metres on the public land side and more than 10 metres on his own side of the fence.

"If you are living next to parks that aren't really maintaining tracks, you should be able to have a decent break to give fire vehicle access," he said.

"It was certainly the only thing that saved us.

"We also got approval to remove any trees that would land on the kangaroo fence."

Bart Meinck said the rules around clearing along fence lines had to be changed or more people would lose their livelihoods.

"We lobbied fairly hard to get what we did and that saved our farms, we know that," he said.

"We are trying to get the government to see that we are responsible landholders.

"We have areas set aside for wildlife, etc.

"Everybody needs the opportunity to protect their livelihood."

He said there needed to be proper fire management and proper management of national parks.

Mr Meinck said the guidelines were not sufficient as a fire break.

He said the cleared area on his land gave them a workable and safe working base and distance to fight fires.

If the fire had entered his land, it would have resulted in loss of land and damage to livestock.

"If you get a really bad day with high winds, we know a fire break like this won't stop it," he said.

"We were lucky the conditions were kind to us."

Mr Sullivan said he ran 3300 crossbred ewes and 400 cattle.

For the past 10 years the Sullivans had conducted an annual pasture improvement program that involved paddocks being sown down to fodder crops for two years and permanent pasture in the third year.

"We get about a one third increase in stocking rate each year, and we'll get even more without the kangaroos," he said.


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