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‘Should never have been built’: Fire management expert calls for ban on building new houses in high fire risk areas

As a horror bushfire season ravages Australia, an expert is calling for an end to the building of homes in particularly bushfire prone areas, in a bid to prevent future tragedies.

But he’s not calling for those who have just lost their homes to fire to be told they can’t rebuild.

“I think this is not the time to be telling people that, they’ve already been through so much trauma,” Dr Kevin Tolhurst, Associate Professor in Fire Ecology and Management at the University of Melbourne, told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

“It’s cruel to do it that way, but there’s a lot of work we can do in between fires to identify areas really which are really not going to be survivable, even under relatively mild conditions, and really are planning mistakes from the past that we shouldn’t continue to allow to happen.

“I don’t think people should be necessarily pushed off their land but they need to be notified that ‘you’re living on a property or at a location which we think should never have been built on. You won’t be able to on-sell your property and if you want to sell it, the government will buy it back. If it gets burned in a bushfire then you won’t be able to rebuild and the government will buy it back’,” he said.

The changes called for by Dr Tolhurst were recommended by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, which took place after Black Saturday.

But the fire management expert said another royal commission into bushfires isn’t the best way to spend funding.

“The amount of resources, the money, and the people’s time that would go into a royal commission could be better spent on doing this work. So, for example, doing the analysis of the risk across the landscape to identify these properties that are at unacceptable levels of risk,” he said.

“That would be a much better use for the millions of dollars.”

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Image: Darrian Traynor / Stringer