Arsonists not welcome: GAPP

THE stern message to would-be arsonists this summer is clear: Gippsland does not want you in the community.

Speaking to the media at the launch of the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program for 2012/13 on Wednesday, Victoria Police Superintendent Tess Walsh warned arsonists they would not be safe.

“Gippsland abhors this sort of behaviour,” Supt Walsh said.

“The impact of arson was particularly damaging in 2009, and we believe recent fire activity (in the area) may be suspicious.”

She said the behaviour of arsonists was “difficult for a right-minded person to think through”, and they needed assistance.

Supt Walsh also emphasised the important role of the community in helping prevent arson activity.

“It is critical we have the community working with us to report any suspicious activity and be our fire patrol,” she said.

“We understand people can be a bit recalcitrant to contact us, but we urge them to just be vigilant in their own areas.”

Supt Walsh said with a busy fire season anticipated this summer, the role of GAPP was critical.

The GAPP is a core group of emergency services including the police and Country Fire Authority, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, local councils and private industry including Hancock Victoria Plantations, EnergyAustralia, AGL Loy Yang and Gippsland Water working together to prevent arson in the area.

HVP fire protection manager Greg Flynn said as one of the industry partners involved in GAPP, they would be running “lots of patrols” with other agencies and lend their support to emergency services this fire season.

“Like the community, HVP also suffered so much loss in 2009 with (its) plantation estate affected; it’s taken us until now to replant areas which were burnt out,” Mr Flynn said.

“(Our plantation land) tends to be a rubbish dump location and have some arson activity.”

Mr Flynn said HVP’s plantation land was also adequately signed with warnings, and reminded people: “if you know something or you see something, say something.”