Roadside grazing permits will be slashed to $1 in Corangamite Shire.
The permits will drop from $52 in 2017-18 to the new nominal fee in an effort to reduce the fire hazard of roadside fuel.
Areas of the shire suffered heavy losses in the St Patrick’s Day fires, with some residents and councillors blaming unmanaged roadside vegetation for contributing to the fires’ spread.
Corangamite Shire environment and emergency manager Lyall Bond said the cost had been reducing over time from $104 to $52 in this financial year.
“The intent of this further reduction in fees is to encourage more landowners to obtain roadside grazing permits and reduce fire risk,” he said. “We encourage people to apply for a permit now so we can go out and look at the area and see if they are eligible.”
Mr Bond said the fee was set at $1, rather than being free, to ensure that a legal and financial transaction was taking place.
“It shows the stock owner’s insurer that the stock grazing on public land is a legitimate part of their farming enterprise,” he said.
Roadside grazing is only permitted at night and where no protected native vegetation is present.
Moyne Shire is also planning a reduction in roadside grazing permits from $30 to $10 in its draft 2018-19 budget.
Moyne Shire councillor Daniel Meade has spoken in favour of his council’s plan.
“The less roadside growth, the less fuel there is for fires,” he said.
“The roadside growth, when it is out of control, is a breeding ground for weeds and pests so we want to restrict that.”
Speaking after the St Patrick’s Day fires, Corangamite Shire councillor Bev McArthur said in some cases overgrown roadsides had allowed fire to spread.
“The excessive roadside vegetation facilitated a tunnel of fire travelling along roads in our area and that is just not acceptable,” she said.
Cr McArthur has called for a “massive campaign” that would change the whole approach of roadside management.
“Landholders should have the ability to look after their roadsides and we don’t impede them with fees or excessive regulations,” she said.