Dead trees pose threat

THOUSANDS of dead trees will need to be knocked down to make the Great Alpine Road safe long after the Harrietville fires are out, says Bill Sykes.

The member for Benalla says the danger posed by dead alpine ash, previously burnt in the 2003 fires and again exposed to fire last week, will mean a huge operation to make the road between Harrietville and Mount Hotham passable.

Firefighters have already been barred from using parts of the road above The Meg as trees continue to fall.

Wind, rain and, later this year, snow are also expected to take their toll on the dead and unstable trees.

Dr Sykes said it would require a mammoth clean-up.

He said assessments in the wake of the 2003 fires suggested thousands of trees would need to be felled.

“The issue is not just those dead trees within a tree-length of the road but those on the high side of the road that can fall and effectively spear down the slope and across the road as well,” he said.

“We have all been aware of the threat that these trees have posed for some time and in the past there have been efforts to remove them.

“But my understanding is that now that fire has gone through there for a second time, these dead alpine ash are even more unstable and will present an even greater danger.”

The Great Alpine Road has been effectively closed to general traffic since the fire began with a lightning strike on January 21.

Fire authorities expect it to remain closed to all but emergency vehicles for most of this week.

But as previously reported it is expected to be closed for weeks after that as VicRoads repairs signage, guard rails and deals with the fallen and dangerous trees.

Alpine Council chief executive Ian Nicholls said it was concerned with the flow-on effects to tourism.

“We are very concerned with the length of time this is likely to take, very concerned that people should be getting in there and cleaning it up ASAP,” he said.

“It is our understanding that there is quite a bit of infrastructure damage this time and that many of these trees have already come down.

“We certainly don’t want that road being closed for months.

“Hopefully we have learnt some lessons from previous fires up there, and that we do something about it this time.”