With fire restrictions now lifted across the region, authorities have come together to urge landholders to be vigilant about protecting their paddock trees during the stubble burning season.

As part of the Year of the Paddock Tree campaign, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GB CMA), City of Greater Shepparton and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) have joined forces to protect the catchment’s scattered trees in coming months.

Phile Hawkey, the CFA’s vegetation management officer for the north east region, said landholders must establish a three-metre firebreak around trees.

“This means there can be no flammable material around the tree. Sometimes simply raking around the trees is all it takes,” he said.

“A person has to be in attendance at all times while the fire is alight and must have the capacity and means to extinguish the fire.”

Quite apart from the loss of vegetation when paddock trees are destroyed during stubble burns, Mr Hawkey said burning trees were the single biggest killer of firefighters.

“Burning trees are the number one cause of deaths for fire firefighters in Australia. They are so unpredictable once they are fully ablaze and there’s no telling when they’ll fall or drop branches.”

Mr Hawkey said he’d detected a welcomed shift in thinking about the value of paddock trees during his tenure with the CFA.

“There’s still more work to be done but I’m convinced many landowners now appreciate the value of the natural resources on their properties. You can’t replace a tree in a hurry.”

The GB CMA’s Rebecca Caldwell said stubble burns posed a significant threat to the viability of scattered trees in the landscape.

“Despite the recognised value of paddock trees and legislative measures aimed at protecting them, we continue to lose important trees during stubble burning season,” Ms Caldwell said.

She said landowners were required to check and follow regulations and laws set down by the CFA and local councils.

“They also need to register their burn with the CFA to ensure authorities aren’t called out unnecessarily.

“Failure to comply with these regulations could result in prosecutions.”