Letters to the Editor

Fanning the flames

The anniversary of the 2003 fires is upon us and I note the articles in your paper ("Memories still burn", January 17, p1) about that day and the need to avoid becoming complacent. Unfortunately my view is that in fact we have learnt little from the December 2001 and January 2003 experiences and remain rather complacent.

I cite many examples of this when giving occasional lectures to Dr Geoff Cary's ANU Masters students. A current example which concerns me and a number of my contacts in the bushfire and emergency services community, is a recent review of the ACT Emergencies Act, in which the ACT government appears to be trying to silence the voices of long-term experienced emergency personnel and fire fighters.

It seems that the government is intent upon centralising power around the ESA Commissioner and removing the influence of those who actually experienced the devastating fires of 2003. It is doing this by proposing to limit the terms of people on the ACT Bushfire Council to eight years.

This, if accepted by the Legislative Assembly, would remove highly experienced people once their current terms end.

The ACT community should be made aware of these issues to enable intelligent debate on ESA proposals.

Ric Hingee, Duffy


Print is still best

The Belconnen Community Council has acted as an apologist for the ACT government in its decision to cease notifying development applications in The Canberra Times (Letters, January 17).

Does this represent the views of the Belconnen community?

If not, does it display contempt for those people who do not use apps on smartphones or, worse, who still read newspapers as a major source of local information?

RI Boxall, Hawker

Cat culls work

Frankie Seymour's statement (Letters, January 17) that "even if there were convincing evidence that cats threaten biodiversity, it is well known that lethal control of fast-breeding species like cats does not work" is simply wrong.

After being introduced to Macquarie Island, Tasmania, in the early 1800s feral cat numbers grew to up to 500 and wiped out approximately 60,000 nesting seabirds annually. A protracted program of shooting, trapping and gassing culminated in 2001 with the complete removal of cats.

With the cats gone seabird numbers rapidly increased, breeding programs recovered and biodiversity was restored.

Philip Barnaart, Curtin

We're the real pests

After reading about the ACT government's attempt to shift blame onto another species ("Feral cats could be declared pests in the ACT", January 10, p10) I'd like to remind concerned readers that feral cats are harmless compared to the most destructive pest of all.

Every human does more damage to the natural environment in a single year than a thousand cats could hope to do in their lifetimes, and unlike other plagues, the government actively encourages more breeding to appease their corporate masters.

James Allan, Narrabundah

Soil testing service

The announcement by the ACT government that it will develop regulations that will encourage the planting of fruit and vegetables on nature strips has resulted in considerable commentary, both for and against, in articles and letters in The Canberra Times.

Matt Meyer (Letters, January 17) expresses concern that fertiliser run-off will exacerbate the eutrophication already experienced by Canberra's water bodies and Jackie French (Relax, January 17) worries about lead levels in soil originating from lead in petrol.

I believe that Mr Meyer's concerns may be unfounded. Given the high retail cost of fertilisers, particularly blood and bone, most gardeners are very sparing in their application and work to minimise the risk of waste through run-off. Of much greater concern for water quality is the mismanagement of leaf fall from deciduous trees both in streets and on river and lake banks.

Residents with existing home or community gardens or proposing to plant on their nature strip should know that they can have their soil tested for levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, manganese, lead, nickel and zinc. This free service (donations welcomed) is provided by Macquarie University through its VegeSafe program, run by Professor Mark Taylor who some may have seen on the Catalyst program on lead last year.

I have had the soil tested in and around my community garden plot on the former tennis courts at the O'Connor Uniting Church. All of my VegeSafe readings were reassuringly well below the Australian and international guidelines for urban soil in residential areas. This excellent VegeSafe service is highly recommended.

Alan Robertson , Canberra City

Flawed management

Your front page article appropriately headed "Memories still burn" is a vivid reminder of the failure of bushfire operational management just 13 years ago and more importantly it draws attention to the deterioration in Australia-wide bushfire management today.

The further worrying deterioration of bushfire fuel, land and operational management in such a short time is taken for granted and justified by so-called climate change. The timely article states that "the sense of danger is compounded by research that indicates the environment is becoming warmer and drier" but nowhere is there any details of this research and the real facts that this will happen and how it will affect our fires.

We do know that once the fire danger index hits 50, fire behaviour has hit its highest even if the temperature goes up a couple of degrees. Further you say that "climate change will result in a harsher fire weather climate in the future". How do we know that? No evidence produced again. Maybe it will get wetter.

You quote Dr Carey as saying, "I think that global warming has already resulted in more bushfire regions and increased burn in the Canberra region." Funny thing, real fire numbers have gone down since 2003 and certainly since my firefighting days and this is even with the deterioration in bush fire operational management. The emphasis on "megafires" has resulted in a bushfire industry honed around federal funds. It is timely for an urgent reassessment of bushfire management on a national basis before it is too late.

Val Jeffery, Tharwa

Not such a game

Here's a suggestion for a new money-making app to replace Survival Island 3: Australia Story 3D. Instead of a "game" bludgeoning Aboriginal people to death for points ("Tech giants receive 'please explain' over game", January 17, p6), perhaps we could have a game set in Bangladeshi factories where the player whips the exploited workers so they work faster on polo shirts being produced for back-to-school specials in Australian stores ("Retailers slammed for uniform price campaign", January 17, p8). After all, we wouldn't want game developer NIL Entertainment, Apple and Google Play going bankrupt.

C. Shipp, Tuggeranong

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