Stay or Go policy must change: Comrie

Stay or Go policy must change: Comrie

08 April 2010

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 THE Stay or Go policy is failing in its present form and must be revamped yet again, former chief commissioner of police Neil Comrie told the Bushfires Royal Commission yesterday.

And he said that Victoria had designated only 62 neighbourhood safer places for shelter from bushfire, while New South Wales had designated 600 over the same period.

Mr Comrie, who is charged with monitoring the state’s take-up of commission recommendations, said research had found that 80 per cent of people in high bushfire-risk areas still refused to evacuate early, even on Code Red Catastrophic Days, even though this summer was the first one to follow Black Saturday.

Commissioner Ron McLeod said that if ”large numbers of people who were conscious of the policy nevertheless chose to remain until they were certain they were under threat”, this raised the question of whether the Go Early advice ”isn’t going to be heeded and perhaps is against human nature. And perhaps all the marketing in the world won’t help.”

Mr Comrie said the development of a new Stay or Go message was ”absolutely critical”: ”We need a credible message that can be delivered consistently and has a high chance of being accepted as credible by the community.”

Commissioner Susan Pascoe suggested that the fire danger ratings also needed revision because too many Code Red Days would produce cry-wolf syndrome in residents.

Mr Comrie said Victoria had tougher guidelines for neighbourhood safer places than NSW. Only 20 councils had designated such places and some locations simply had no prospect of one, he said.

Victoria still has only one refuge, which existed before Black Saturday.

Mr Comrie said he had seen no evidence of deliberate intent to hold up the refuge policy, but that it was partly reliant on the finalisation of the new Stay or Go policy.

Councils were having trouble implementing some recommendations because of lack of resourcing or lack of co-operation from other bodies, he said.

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