Bushfire Inquiry to report but real action needed this season

AHEAD of another potentially dangerous bushfire season, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin has advocated more risk mitigation and adaptation, hopeful that the latest in Australia’s endless cycle of natural disaster reviews will lead to real action.

Thursday, 30 July 2020.

AHEAD of another potentially dangerous bushfire season, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin has advocated more risk mitigation and adaptation, hopeful that the latest in Australia’s endless cycle of natural disaster reviews will lead to real action.

Ms Saffin has put forward a checklist of her own recommendations, with the official Bushfire Danger Period for the Northern Rivers starting on September 1 and with the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, due to report to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in the near future.

Ms Saffin, who appeared before the Inquiry when it visited Tenterfield and who has been consulting with Rural Fire Service brigades and affected local communities, advocates:

  • A return to more regular hazard reduction burns and improved maintenance of fire trails, with particular emphasis on protecting towns, villages, hamlets and residential subdivisions.
  • More generous funding for training in and implementation of cultural or mosaic burning practices which last season proved effective in areas of New South Wales where it had been undertaken in recent years.
  • Better preparedness of our Rural Fire Service brigades, including all volunteer firefighters to be fully kitted out and supplied with the latest equipment. Ms Saffin recently met with three RFS managers Michael Brett, David Cook and Chris Wallbridge to discuss various brigades’ expectations.
  • A commitment from Forestry Corporation, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Crown Lands to act as better neighbours to farmers on adjoining properties. This would apply to proper compensation for accessing water from private dams; maintaining and repairing boundary fences; and maintaining buffer zones.
  • Given the deaths and trauma of native wildlife last season, wildlife carers could be accredited to allow them to access fire grounds immediately and safely.

Ms Saffin said many people did not realise that since 1886 Australian governments have held more than 300 inquiries and reviews into natural disasters and emergency management.

“Major insurer Suncorp in a submission to the latest Royal Commission Into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, due to report by late October, wrote that: ‘When it comes to natural disasters, Australia is currently stuck in a cycle of disaster, rebuild, recover, repeat’,” Ms Saffin noted.

“While I am looking forward to reading the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry’s recommendations, I think local communities who experienced last year’s mega-fires want to see more practical action, supported by more adequate funding, as soon as possible.”

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