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Review of Smoke Management Strategy

10 June 2010

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Forest Practices Authority will review Tasmania’s smoke management system in a bid to further reduce the impact of smoke from planned forestry burns.

The review will specifically consider incidents of very high smoke levels detected in the Huon Valley and the Burnie area which sparked health concerns in April this year.

EPA Director Warren Jones said the levels of fine particulate matter detected by the EPA’s BLANkET air quality monitoring network in the Huon and at Burnie were clearly unacceptable.

“The review will look at how the Coordinated Smoke Management Strategy was used and how it and other tools can be improved to reduce the likelihood of incidents of these types,” he said.

“It will include input from the EPA’s air quality specialists and be informed by the results of all the air quality information collected by the EPA during autumn.”

Mr Jones said the EPA would not be further investigating cases against Forestry Tasmania and Gunns Ltd for their contributions to the excessive smoke levels in the Huon Valley and Burnie incidents.

“The EPA has consulted with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and I have formed the view that it is very unlikely that a successful case could be mounted,” he said.

“We have been advised that a stronger body of evidence would be required than that prepared for an incident we investigated at Bridport in 2006. We were unable to proceed with that particular case despite a substantial amount of work over several years.

“Both the Huon and Burnie incidents will present more challenges than the Bridport case as the distance between ‘cause and effect’ was much greater and there were more other possible sources of smoke than at Bridport.”

Mr Jones said that because fire permits were not required when the Burnie and Huon incidents occurred, the EPA was not able to establish with certainty the location and size of all other possible sources of smoke.

“Fully investigating each of the events for submission to the DPP for further consideration would be extremely resource intensive and would displace or significantly delay other high priority cases being handled by the EPA’s Compliance Investigation Section,” he said.

“In view of my considered assessment that there is a low likelihood of success, I do not believe that pursuing these cases will be the best use of the EPA’s resources.”