AN environmental lobby group has estimated the Grampians bushfires in 2006 cost more than $585 million and is an example of extreme weather events influenced by climate change.
Friends of the Earth has urged the state government to regularly compile full costs of natural disasters and improve climate adaptation plans.
A research report released by the group lists public costs from the Gampians fires as $315.1m in environmental losses, $36.5m in emergency response operations, $11m for park buildings, contents and infrastructure and $10.8m in recovery assistance.
Private costs were calculated at $100m in local economic loss, $62.5m in agricultural loss, $28m in insurance payouts, $14.5m in residential buildings and contents plus an estimated $7.3m for fatalities.
It comes as firefighters mopping after more devastating fires in the northern Grampians prepare for another weekend of high fire danger.
The report estimates the total cost of major Victorian bushfires since 2003 including Black Saturday is more than $12.7 billion, floods at $3b, storms $2.8b and heatwaves $1.3b.
“Our state government has walked away from meaningful action to reduce greenhouse pollution,” the group’s co-ordinator Cam Walker said.
“What this report seeks to highlight is that the government is flying blind when it comes to tracking economic and social costs of natural disasters.”
Friends of the Earth is involved in the extensive report written by RMIT student Tom Delbridge which shows the estimated costs of fires, floods, storms and heatwaves taken mainly from insurance data.
It puts the 2006 Grampians fires at $373.4m in public costs and $212.3m in private costs. Two people, more than 64,000 farm animals and unknown numbers of native animals and birds died from the fires which were started by lightning and burnt 80,000 hectares of national park and adjoining property.
Estimated agricultural losses totalled about 62,000 hectares of farming land owned or leased by 603 property holders.
A total of 57 houses, more than 350 other buildings, 2600 beehives, 1500 kilometres of fencing plus significant reserves of hay and pasture were also destroyed.
The report says the state government decided not to hold an inquiry into the fire and the Coroner did not respond to a request for an inquest into the two human fatalities.
“Confusion about the amount of fuel reduction burning done on public land continued,” it said.
“The government failed again to meet its own burning target and made no provision in the budget to make up the backlog of areas it said required fuel reduction.”
The Standard was unable to get a government response.