PM special: Survivors doubt Government will act on Commission recommendations

PM special: Survivors doubt Government will act on Commission recommendations

31 July 2010

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SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Survivors of Black Saturday and the residents of the worst affected communities have welcomed the Commission’s findings and recommendations.

But many are sceptical that the Brumby Government will act.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: Dennis Brown lives just outside Marysville on the road to Buxton. He says the evacuation recommendations need to be adopted, but acknowledges it won’t be easy in some areas.

DENNIS BROWN: It could be a really good idea; whether they implement it or not, is a question isn’t it?

Certainly on Black Saturday we had not enough warning and nowhere really safe to go.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jenny Pullen and her husband Graham Pullen ran a bed and breakfast in Marysville. It was decimated on February the 7th last year. She has problems with many of the Royal Commissions recommendations.

JENNY PULLEN: There’s not a lot of new information in there that I’ve seen. Some things I agree with, some things I definitely don’t agree with.

ALISON CALDWELL: What in particular do you not agree with?

JENNY PULLEN: With the safe areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: Bushfire shelters and community shelters should be established in the state’s high risk areas?

JENNY PULLEN: Yes. I do agree that they need to be there but people need to be aware, what’s safe for one fire, is not necessarily going to be safe for a different fire.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Royal Commission also looked at mapping the wildfire management overlay, the declaration of which areas are really dangerous, bushfire prone areas and it said that in your shire, the Murrindindi Shire, the wildfire management over didn’t apply to some areas at all.

It said that the CFA didn’t include public land when it did the maps in 2001. The Royal Commission is saying that now the CFA really needs to take a lot more responsibility for dolling out these permits.

JENNY PULLEN: Well yes I do agree with that and they need to be accountable. At Feb 7, Marysville was not classified as a high risk fire area.

ALISON CALDWELL: Marysville GP Lachlan Fraser lost his home, his clinic and almost his life on Black Saturday.

LACHLAN FRASER: There’s certainly talk about fuel reduction; targets aiming for 5 per cent, so it’s good to see that increase.

A lot of discussion about making electricity lines safer, which is good because quite a number of the fires started on Black Saturday, were started by the power lines. I don’t know how much it would cost but anything that can be done within reason to improve the safety of Victoria is worth considering.

ALISON CALDWELL: Former Flowerdale resident Linda Roycroft now lives on the outskirts of Melbourne, in fire prone Warrandyte.

She lost her home and her best friend Karen Roland on Black Saturday.

LINDA ROYCROFT: It’s sort of conjured up a lot of things in my head, I feel very uncomfortable about it. You wonder whether it can help anybody in the future.

ALISON CALDWELL: What do you think about the Royal Commission saying that the state government should encourage and require councils to provide community refuges, bushfire shelters and the provision to recommend emergency evacuation on a code red day?

LYNDA ROYCROFT: I think it needs to be somebody’s responsibility and I think it’s wise that it falls on the shoulders of the people that are directly involved in the land and know the land.

ALISON CALDWELL: As in the council?

LYNDA ROYCROFT: As in the council yeah.

I think the stay or go policy doesn’t work and it doesn’t work for so many people and I would really frightened I think to think that something like that could happen again and people would just choose to stay without fully knowing what could impact on them.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Former Flowerdale resident Linda Roycroft ending Alison Caldwell’s report.

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