During the 2019-2020 fire season, there were four instances in Victoria where technology installed due to Black Saturday "prevented a fire start from a powerline fault".
That's according to a review of the decade-long Powerline Bushfire Safety Program, which included the delivery of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) technology that shuts off power if contact is made with vegetation.
Five funding programs were created as a result of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce, and before it, the Royal Commission into the 2009 fires - of which six were caused by powerlines.
A fire started in Beechworth on Black Saturday when a tree fell on a power line on Buckland Gap Road.
The Taskforce's final report stated the Royal Commission found "hazard trees" and "the operation of automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs) contributed to the Beechworth-Mudgegonga fire".
The installation of 1288 remotely controlled ACRs were found by Aurecon to have contributed "to the protection of Victoria's entire single wire earth return network".
Aurecon's benefits realisation report for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning also stated 734 kilometres of bare-wire powerlines were replaced with underground or insulated overhead conductors.
"Based on current progress, a reduction in relative powerline bushfire risk of close to 50 per cent is expected by 2023 which will help reduce the future number of bushfires in Victoria," the report stated.
Beechworth fire brigade captain Bruce Forrest recalled discussions after 2009 about changes to the network but said he wasn't aware of specific infrastructure projects in the area.
"I don't remember any drastic clearing of power lines and felling of trees ... but I have seen the helicopter flying around lines in the last few years," he said.
Aurecon's report said the total annual powerline-related fire starts had reduced from the 2006-10 historical average, however, more data was needed to confirm this trend.
Some evaluations "were agreed with DELWP to be outside the scope of the review", including a "traditional cost benefit analysis" and "an assessment of whether the program maximised the value to Victorians".
The Victorian government said the program "delivered on its promise to significantly reduce the risk of bushfires".
Mr Forrest raised vegetation management as a key issue, which was not specifically addressed in the six objectives outlined by the taskforce.
Benambra MP Bill Tilley said he had been communicating with SP Ausnet regarding infrastructure and vegetation management.
"I am hopeful that this work continues to progress as quickly as possible to reduce the risks of further disasters," he said.
"It's great to see these men and women out in the field, on the ground, upgrading this infrastructure."
Work will continue this year to improve powerline bushfire safety in the North East, an AusNet spokeswoman said.
"Technology has been installed in the Barnawatha, Myrtleford, Beechworth and Wangaratta regions, with further roll-out continuing in the Wodonga and Corryong regions over the next 12 to 18 months," she said.
"Each year we invest in an extensive maintenance and vegetation management program, conduct helicopter inspections, and use Lidar technology to get a clear picture of how the landscape is looking.
"Heavy rain and periods of sunshine has spurred rapid vegetation regrowth in the North East, so we've increased our vegetation program by approximately 30 per cent."
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