Head of bushfires inquiry abandons stay-and-defend policy

Head of bushfires inquiry abandons stay-and-defend policy

27 February 2009

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — The head of the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires has already abandoned the stay-and-defend policy as fires rage near his property at Daylesford.

Justice Bernard Teague said yesterday he had no hope of defending his property if the fires were similar to the scale of those that devastated Kinglake and Marysville on February 7.

“I regret to say that my fire plan is not to be there,” Justice Teague said.

“If it were to be in the path of anything like the kind of fire we’ve seen up there it would be devastating. But my heart’s in that place. I even have my burial plot in the Daylesford place, so it’s a place that is very dear to me.”

Fellow commissioner Ron McLeod hinted the stay-and-defend policy might not have been the right approach on Black Saturday, given the severe conditions.

Mr McLeod said the stay-and-defend strategy had served the community well over the years but after such a major event it was necessary to review the policy.

Mr McLeod yesterday joined Justice Teague and another commissioner, Susan Pascoe, on a tour of the incident control centre at Kangaroo Ground.

They were flown over Kinglake and Flowerdale and had a ground-level inspection of the damage at Marysville.

Ms Pascoe said it was “devastating” and “heartbreaking”.

“There are certain hills where there doesn’t seem to be a leaf left on a tree . . . and then you see houses just decimated, just piles on the ground, and you can only imagine how horrific it must have been,” she said.

Public meetings will be held in communities affected by the fires.

“We want to hear it while it’s still fresh in their minds . . . but we’re very conscious we don’t want to in any way amplify the trauma that people are feeling already,” Ms Pascoe said.

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