Debate rages over Queensland national park bushfire preparation

November bushfire at Pechey. Photo-QFES.
November bushfire at Pechey. Photo-QFES.

A fiery debate has taken place in Queensland parliament over whether more could have been done to prevent fierce bushfires that have ravaged the state in recent months.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington moved that an inquiry be held into the effectiveness of preparation leading up to the 2019 bushfires, touching on areas including fire reduction practices in national parks and penalties for juvenile arsonists.

"The next bushfire season may be even more destructive if lessons are not learned from what Queensland has gone through and may continue to go through this season," she said.

Ms Frecklington said bushfire prevention activities by QFES in 2018 dropped by 83 per cent when compared to those done in 2016.

But the motion was voted down, with Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Craig Crawford saying he last month asked the Inspector-General Emergency Management to undertake a thorough investigation into the state's emergency response to the September bushfires and the rest of the bushfire season.

Mr Crawford said the government had approved an average 27,463 hazard reduction permits each year since 2015.

"Opportunities for hazard reduction burning this year were severely limited by the smaller window to burn safely," he said.

"It is landholders who ultimately decide when or whether to undertake a mitigation burn and there are many reasons as to why they may not do so.

"This includes the ongoing drought in many areas and the need to preserve fodder and feed for stock."

Condamine MP Pat Weir said this year's fires hadn't been helped by ongoing drought and a lack of controlled burning in many areas.

"Last week I met with a group of residents from Hampton," he said.

"They advised me that no controlled burning activity has taken place for a number of years in the area.

"Their homes are on the edge of the Hampton National Park, which is so overgrown with vegetation that the signage can no longer be seen."

Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause spoke of seeing a blaze tear up Mount Cordeaux on the Boonah side of Cunninghams Gap.

"Land which had not been subjected to back-burning and hazard reduction burning for 20 years went up in 45 minutes," he said.

"It looked like a nuclear explosion from the other side, such was the ferocity and the amount of smoke going into the air.

"There was too much fuel on the ground in that national park.

"It might be alright if we could put up a wall between parks and private land, but we cannot.

"The people who are bearing the most costs from these fires are landholders who are suffering already from drought and now the remainder of their feed is being burnt out by fire."

But Environment Minister Leanne Enoch slammed the LNP for not acknowledging the impact of climate change in causing the fires.

"The 2018 bushfires stand out in our state's recent history as the first time in Queensland the 'catastrophic' fire danger category was triggered," she said.

"We saw rainforests burn for the first time, and this year we have experienced severe fire conditions earlier in the fire season than we have ever seen before.

"Records have been broken, traditional owners are telling us there are no stories to compare to what we are seeing now, and experts in fire management are telling us that this is the 'new normal'."

Ms Enoch said park rangers had conducted more than 290 planned burns covering more than 1.4 million hectares since January, the largest area covered in the last six years.

"It is increasingly apparent that Queensland will face more severe bushfire conditions as we experience a changing climate," she said.

The motion was outvoted 46 to 43.