News

VFF steps in to help

By Country News

The VFF is co-ordinating donations of money, fodder and agistment for farmers affected by fires that tore through south-west Victoria last week.

‘‘First and foremost, we need farmers, their families and their workers to think of safety and seek support,’’ VFF president David Jochinke said.

‘‘We need high quality fodder for dairy cows caught up in the fire regions,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s vital the fodder donated is ‘milk quality’ so farmers can continue milking cows and start to generate an income.

‘‘We also want to hear from farmers who need fodder so we can co-ordinate immediate distribution,’’ Mr Jochinke said.

Fodder isn’t the only option for donations, with the VFF asking for monetary donations for its Disaster Relief Fund, which will be used to cover the cost of fodder transport to fire-affected farmers and facilitate collection and distribution of feed.

The VFF’s goal is $100000.

■Anyone with good quality fodder to donate should phone the VFF on 1300 882 833 to register. For more information on how to donate, visit: www.vff.org.au/donations

■Further information about the support available to fire-affected farmers can be found at www.vff.org.au/support or by phoning the Rural Financial Counselling Service on 1300 735 578.

Fire threat is increasing

Australia is experiencing ‘‘incredibly protracted fire seasons’’ as a consequence of climate change, experts say, and we’re going to have to get used to the ‘‘new normal’’.

Homes and farm buildings were destroyed and livestock died when a ferocious firestorm ripped through Camperdown, Cobden and surrounding areas in south-west Victoria for several days.

David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology, said analysis of recent events showed fire seasons were lengthening globally.

‘‘Joining the dots, this is consistent with climate change,’’ the University of Tasmania academic said.

‘‘This is the new normal now — we need to get our heads around this.

‘‘This has some really significant implications for people living in flammable environments because it means you can’t put your guard down.

‘‘You can’t think summer has ended and say, ‘Phew we dodged a bullet’.’’

High temperatures, dryness and incredible winds are combining to create ‘‘crazy fires’’ which burn uncontrolled.

Dr Bowman said increased fire activity had been predicted by climate scientists and, while political leaders had struggled to deal with an abstract threat, the danger was now real.

‘‘It’s a fact,’’ he said, adding debate now needed to focus on making communities safer.

People would still live in bushland areas but there would need to be ‘‘buffers’’ around settlements in the form of green firebreaks such as parklands, community gardens and golf courses.

‘‘Having houses nestled in bushland ... those days are numbered,’’ Dr Bowman said.