The Greens today warned Tasmanians to brace themselves for a smoke-wreathed Easter, as another annual forest burning season is about to kick off, blanketing the otherwise glorious autumn weather in noxious smoke.
Greens Health spokesperson Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP said the equivalent of trillions of cigarettes would be burned across the state and the smoke inhaled by everyone, including children and senior citizens.
“The Easter Bunny would have to cough and wheeze as it tries to deliver its eggs this Easter,” said Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP. “Perhaps it won’t even get that far,” added Mr O’Halloran.
“Unfortunately, unlike the Easter Bunny, this is real and serious for far too many people, whose health suffers because of it, as does Tasmania’s brand reputation and industries such as tourism and winegrowing.”
“Labor is lame when it comes to acting on smoke pollution. The emphasis seems to be of the 1950s’ kind: ‘if you’re asthmatic, close the windows and stay indoors. If it gets too bad, move out of home for a while’. But that’s just not good enough.”
“Labor’s Health Minister, Michele O’Bryne, supports anti-cigarette smoking measures, but sadly falls silent on the annual forest burns, which risk contaminating the air of the entire state.”
“In February, Tasmania’s Environmental Protection Authority and the Office of the Director of Public Health launched a new air quality notification system.”
“But if you look at its website, its air-pollution figures are at least a month out of date. And go to the ‘public health alerts’ section of the DHHS website and there’s no mention of smoke pollution. This lack of action, just as the burning season kicks off, betrays Labor’s double-standard on smoke pollution.”
“The Deputy Director of Public Health has admitted that “even after only short exposures to smoky conditions… wood smoke can worsen the symptoms of lung conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema [and that] we are seeing increasing evidence of its effects on heart disease as well. Infants and people over the age of 65 are also at increased risk.”
“But the EPA’s appears to only tell people to “take precautions and limit their exposure to smoke”. Why does the EPA continue to ignore the source of the smoke pollution and put the emphasis on the public, who are forced to inhale the smoke?”
“In a landmark report on its outlook to 2050, the OECD issued a report called the Consequences of Inaction. It predicted that, by 2050, air pollution will overtake water pollution and lack of sanitation as the cause of mortality. The report said “exposure to particulate air pollutants, leading to respiratory failure, could double from current levels to 3.6 million [deaths] every year globally.”
“Here in Tasmania, we’re well on our way to this alarming situation, and through their inaction, Labor and the Liberals are complicit. Labor’s double standard is revealed again: pledging action on cigarette smoking but doing nothing on forest burn-offs. The Greens will continue to protect people’s health and Tasmania’s reputation by campaigning on this issue,” said Mr O’Halloran.
• Saturday on Tasmanian Times: Sterilisation Burns for Tourists a Must for Tasmania’s Future Prosperity
• FT’S SMOKE RISKS TAINTING WINE & INDUSTRY’S CLEAN GREEN BRAND
Kim Booth MP
Greens Primary Industries spokesperson
The Tasmanian Greens today warned that the annual Forestry Tasmania burns threatened to contaminate the state’s grape harvest, wine growers’ reputations and make their wine undrinkable.
Greens Primary Industries spokesperson Kim Booth MP said Forestry Tasmania’s proposed 245 industrial-scale burns clash with the critical wine-growing and harvesting month of April.
“The forest burns season is neither clean, green nor clever, especially not for Tasmanians’ health and definitely not for the state’s high-value wine growers. Grape vines are critically sensitive to smoke contamination and April is their critical growing month,” said Mr Booth.
“The forest smoke, which has been swathing the island this year, gets absorbed by the grape vine leaves and the pollutants are then passed to the grapes. But it is only months after the wine is fermented that you can tell if it’s contaminated and undrinkable,” said Mr Booth.
“If the burns continue as they have we could realistically expect the destruction of the grape harvest, and the island’s wine production, in the areas worst hit by smoke pollution. Forestry Tasmania has planned 245 burns this year, and that doesn’t even include private forestry burns.”
“No other industry is allowed to contaminate the atmosphere or damage other businesses in this way and Forestry Tasmania must be restrained from using the air as a dumping ground for its rubbish.”
“This unnecessary and medieval practice is at odds with our high-value wine industry, to which Tasmania’s clean, green brand is critical. The trees being torched include those from native forest and that’s just wrong.”
“For example, Lubiana Wines is based in the Derwent Valley and Steve Lubiana this week called the effects of these burns “potentially devastating” to wine growers there, including his winery. And he is not alone.”
“I am unhappy about this smoke pollution. If it continues, you could potentially expect to see the end of wine growing in the Derwent Valley,” said Mr Lubiana.
“As 90% of the grape crop will be harvested during April, the current height of the burns season, it means it is vulnerable to smoke contamination,” said Mr Booth.
“Smoke pollution is bad for brand Tasmania, our health, our carbon footprint and industries like wine growing and tourism. And if anyone can find a good reason to justify them, answers on a postcard, please…”
“The Greens are calling for Labor and the Liberals to break their silence on this industrial smoke pollution.”
“The Greens urge members of the public who are concerned about smoke pollution to contact Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority’s smoke pollution hotline on 1800 005 171,” said Mr Booth.
• Forestry Tasmania’s Planned Burns, just updated: