Letters to the editor

Lessons from the fires

As a long time south coast inhabitant, could I firstly thank all those fearless fire fighters who have selflessly given their time to protect people and property during these current fires. I have no doubt, if called upon, they will do it all again.

I have listened to people who should know better deny the issue of fuel as a contributor to the severity of these outbreaks. Simple logic says, that less fuel must contribute to less severe fires, without suggesting it will stop fires. When areas of land accumulate fuel for over forty years - Ben Boyd National Park between Pambula River mouth and North Head, Eden, when it burns, it will certainly be "hot" and definitely endanger homes and lives.

This area, once state forest and a resource for sleeper production, was traditionally kept relatively fuel free because people in the past burned the tops of felled trees on a regular basis, reducing fuel build up and creating green refuges for animals when fires did occur.

After the prolonged period when there has been no fuel reduction burning, when it does catch fire and burn, as it inevitably will, the result will be reminiscent of the 1973 Nadgee, fire with extreme loss of wildlife as well as potential loss to humans.

Surely it is time to recognise that the first Australians managed the land effectively and adopt their strategies for controlling the effects of fire on our environment.

The other issue seems to be the lack of co-ordination between government agencies. When a fire starts, it seems logical that the sooner it is attended, the less impact it may have. I have heard numerous comments of times when firefighters have had to wait for approval from National Parks authorities before having access to fires, including during this current emergency. It is time Government set out clear legislation that prevent any organisation from denying or delaying access ,to any outbreak. It is also time they ensured that controlled burning is carried out. If the window of opportunity is shrinking, get more people involved.

John Walker, Eden

Special Rate Variation

Although Merimbula News Weekly reported that Bega Valley Shire Council would re-examine the proposed extraordinary rate increases to fund (for a second time) the Council's pools, the arguments against such a 'pool tax' need to be recorded:

First, the Special Rate Variation would raise overall rates by well in excess of 5 per cent p.a. Together with prospective land valuations, this would impose a rate increase of about 20 per cent over three years on the average resident and business.

Second, the principle of 'user pays' must apply to public-sector facilities whose use is non-compulsory. There is no economic or fiscal argument for obliging citizens to pay for swimming pools, which they do not use. If certain categories of users are to be subsidised (for example school groups), the subsidy should be given transparently and directly to them (for example by reductions of the entrance price).

Third, the hefty rate increases would add yet one more cost to living here. Some citizens are leaving our area because of comparatively high costs. And potential newcomers often decide not to move to the Shire, once they have become aware of the high costs of living and relatively poor medical and Council services. BVSC should take a leaf from the history book of Medieval European princes and court officials, who saw low taxes as the best means to secure vibrant population growth, a prospering economy and the realisation of economies of scale. This allowed them to fund their courts and administrations. Slow economic growth due to high tax and a small population amount to a structurally precarious budget and insecure superannuation payouts to staff.

Only finally: at a time when many local residents and local businesses have been suffering harsh bushfire damages, which will burden them for years, it is simply unconscionable for Council to impose new levies.

Wolfgang Kasper, Tura Beach

Monster of the skies: The Erickson Sky Crane named Gypsy Lady that has been water-bombing around the Bega Valley. Photo: Jacob McMaster.

Monster of the skies: The Erickson Sky Crane named Gypsy Lady that has been water-bombing around the Bega Valley. Photo: Jacob McMaster.