• EPA Tasmania
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  • Regulation & Assessment
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  • Policy & Legislation

Management of Planned Burning

The Environment Protection Policy (Air Quality) 2004 contains provisions on planned burning. The provisions are not directly enforceable but are to be implemented by the relevant government agencies and by councils when establishing permit conditions, developing policies and undertaking regulatory activities.

The EPA Division of the Department has been active in promoting measures by other agencies and industry to improve planned burning practices and complaint handling. In particular the Division has been working with the Forest Practices Authority, Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmanian Fire Service, the Parks and Wildlife Service and the forestry industry in a Smoke Management Working Group to develop the Coordinated Smoke Management System (CSMS) and Smoke Management Guidelines.

The Parks and Wildlife Service and the forestry industry have participated in the CSMS since its first trial in 2008 and will continue to use the CSMS and Smoke Management Guidelines for the 2011 planned burn season. Each year the CSMS has been monitored and outcomes reviewed in order to improve its operation for the subsequent burn seasons.

The Smoke Management Guidelines provide for improved planning of smoke dispersal using data and models developed by the Bureau of Meteorology. When the Smoke Management Guidelines predict poor smoke dispersal, restrictions will be imposed as required to ban or limit the number of burns. In this way, the coordination of planned burns should minimise the risk of high concentrations of smoke within individual air sheds.

There is also a provision for a 'no burn day' in the system which will automatically flag days when significant further volumes of smoke should not be added to an air-shed, as determined by measurements of the current air quality and in combination with poor dispersion predictions.

The air quality data is obtained from a state-wide smoke monitoring network known as BLANkET, which stands for Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania. The network consists of air quality monitoring stations concentrated in regions and near communities in the State likely to be impacted by smoke from planned burning.

Air quality data from the stations are available on the EPA Division’s website in near real time.

Smoke Complaints

The EPA Division routinely compiles reports to provide feedback to the community about larger scale smoke events which have been the subject of significant community comment. These reports use data from the more readily available sources to provide an indication of the circumstances surrounding that event and may be indicative of one or more smoke sources.  It is important to appreciate however that the definitive determination of a smoke source can be very difficult and a preliminary assessment of this nature can generally not be relied upon for such a determination.

A much more resource intensive investigation is generally required to confidently determine the source of smoke affecting a community.  Where such an investigation is undertaken, it may yield evidence which warrants a regulatory response.

Decisions about whether or not to allocate the public’s limited resources to further investigation are made on a case by case basis and depend on such considerations as the extent, duration and severity of the impact, the circumstances of the burn and the nature of the evidence likely to be available.   Some cases may be easy to decide upon.  For example, a reckless burn exposing large numbers of people to severe smoke over an extended period on a day when it can be established that there were no other smoke sources may be investigated.  On the other hand, a burn undertaken in compliance with the Coordinated Smoke Management System which, along with other burns, resulted in passing community smoke exposure as a result of unforseen weather may not warrant investigation.  There will however be many cases where the decision is more difficult.   Even considerations of impact can be difficult as there are no accepted regulatory thresholds for smoke exposure and differentiating impacts from multiple smoke sources is rarely possible.  It can also be argued that impact assessment should acknowledge that the smoke suffered on one day as a result of a hazard reduction burn may serve to reduce community exposure to wildfire and smoke in future. 

Many smoke exposure events will therefore not result in a formal investigation and so regulatory action against burners will not eradicate smoke from Tasmania.

Instead, our aim must be to minimise community smoke exposure by improving fire and smoke management practices as we learn through careful examination of our experience.  This process of investigating significant smoke events and providing feedback to the community is part of that program of learning and improving practice.  In the case of planned burns we can give effect to that improved practice by ongoing improvement of the Coordinated Smoke Management System  which is administered by the Forest Practices Authority and provides best practice guidance for burners in the forest industry and public land management sectors.  In the case of domestic burners, we are currently focussing our attention upon improving the use of wood heaters through the Burn Brighter this winter program. Both programs aim to improve burning practicesExposure to prosecution is one of the risks of not burning sensibly.

Follow the links below to view the Summary Complaint Reports produced for previous planned burning periods.

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Small-scale 'waste-removal' burning

Many burns on private land (typically on acreage-sized blocks) involve the burning of cut and stacked vegetation that would otherwise need processing (e.g. mulching) or removal from the property.  These waste-removal burns have the potential to generate signifcant local smoke if not conducted correctly.  The EPA Division has documented a case study of smoke-minimisation in a waste–removal burn typical of those conducted on 'acreage' properties, and consisting of cut and stacked garden waste. At the end of the report is a four-page summary of the main points to take into account.

 

If you wish to lodge a complaint about smoke impact from planned burns, call 1800 005 171 or lodge a complaint to incidentresponse@environment.tas.gov.au.

Impacts from smoke and planned burns are important to capture as part of the strategy to improve smoke management.

Useful Links

For futher information please follow the links below:

  • Forest Practices Authority
    The Forest Practices Authority (FPA) is an independent statutory body that administers the forest practices system.
  • Forestry Planned Burns - Current Information
    Forestry Tasmania provides details of where planned burning will occur in State Forests during the regeneration burns season, in Autumn. View the approximate locations of burns planned by Forestry Tasmania and members of the Forest Industries Association Tasmania.
  • Tasmania Fire Service
    See Tasmania Fire Service information about current bushfires in Tasmania.
  • MODIS Rapid Response
    NASA/GFSC's satellite system, MODIS Rapid Response, produces satellite images of Tasmania that are published on the web for the previous day.
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Air Specialist
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4599 Fax: 03 6173 0254
Email: EnvironmentEnquiries@environment.tas.gov.au