Keep bushfire ‘stay and defend or leave early’ policy, say lawyers

  Keep bushfire ‘stay and defend or leave early’ policy, say lawyers

3 July 2009

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Australia — Victoria´s controversial stay or go policy should be retained but the Country Fire Authority (CFA) needs to develop programs advising people of the defensibility of their homes, state lawyers say.

The royal commission into the February 7 bushfires is hearing responses from the Victorian Government to yesterday’s interim recommendations made by counsel assisting the commission.

Allan Myers, QC, said the Government agreed with the proposal to retain the policy to stay and defend a property or leave early, but said the CFA needed to develop programs that advise individual residents in bushfire-risk zones about the defensibility of their properties.

He said the Government was generally in agreement with commission lawyers over their initial proposals, including approval of the introduction of warnings and voluntary evacuation. But the construction of fire refuges, while valuable, would not be possible before the next bushfire season, he said.

Mr Myers called for the commission’s interim report – due for release in August – to avoid having any adverse impact on the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

“Any findings should incorporate a recognition by the commission that the state relies heavily on volunteer firefighters,” Mr Myers told the commission.

The hearings before Commissioner Bernard Teague are continuing.

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