The federal bushfire royal commission has heard that southern slopes region needs more fuel reductions and buffer zones to protect its economic assets from disaster.
About 20 representatives from the Snowy Valleys Council, NSW Rural Fire Brigade and the timber industry, as well as landowners and members of the Aboriginal community attended.
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements held a community forum at Tumbarumba's Union Hotel, one of the many businesses that suffered a major downturn during the bushfires.
Farmer Alan Becke has a cattle property north of Tumbarumba that lost livestock, sheds, fencing and 90 per cent of its pasture during the Dunns Road bushfire.
Mr Becke told The Daily Advertiser he brought up atthe forum that there needed to be a buffer zone between pine plantations.
"We have got to address some of the problems that were identified during the bushfire and one of those was that a lot of the forestry areas are planted too close to infrastructure and other properties and there's no buffer zone," he said after the forum.
"I believe there should be a buffer zone of up to 100 metres, particularly for pine plantations as they proved to be very flammable."
Mr Becke said the forum was "a bit rushed" as "too many people wanted to talk in a short amount of time".
"Obviously, I appreciate the time constraint they are under," he said.
Royal commission chair Mark Binskin told attendees that that the event was not a formal hearing but it would shape how the inquiry was run.
Mr Binskin said during opening remarks that some people at prior forums had found it "traumatic" when recounting their bushfire experiences.
"The commission is here today because we want to hear personal experiences with different perspectives through different lenses and insights into the coordination, preparedness and planning in relation to natural disasters," Mr Binskin said.
"The focus is on the 2019/20 bushfire season, which was a very large season, but the lessons that are taken onto that, will go on to other natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and the like."
Mr Binskin said the commission was on a "very tight deadline" and effectively had to finish its report on July 31 to hand it down in August.
Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Ross Hampton was one of the forum's attendees.
Mr Hampton said in a statement he told the commission that key forestry economic assets such as the NSW Southwest Slopes' softwood plantations should be considered critical infrastructure when allocating firefighting and fire mitigation resources.
Mr Hampton also said he had called for more aggressive fuel reduction that includes mechanical fuel reduction alongside controlled burns.
"The softwood plantation-based industry is the biggest employer in this region, supporting nearly $2 billion of economic activity in the region and employs around 5000 people, but with up to 40 per cent of region's softwood estate damaged by the fires there will be a significant impact on the industry for at least the next 15 years," he said in a statement about his planned remarks to the commission," Mr Hampton said in a statement.
"While saving lives must be the priority for firefighting resources, we must also redefine critical infrastructure to include key economic assets such as forestry plantations because they are the economic backbone of many regional communities, and they can take decades to recover.
"This should apply not just to the deployment of fire mitigation and suppression resources, but also recovery funding."