PM special: States and territories weigh up recommendations

PM special: States and territories weigh up recommendations

31 July 2010

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SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The report’s given the nation’s top fire chiefs and state governments a lot to digest.

Jason Om reports.

JASON OM: The people on the frontline in other states aren’t taking the findings lightly.

EUAN FERGUSON: We’re taking these recommendations very seriously. We won’t be looking at these with any complacency.

JASON OM: Euan Ferguson is the chief officer of South Australia’s Country Fire Service.

EUAN FERGUSON: The recommendations of the Royal Commission are substantial and will affect the development of bushfire policies and procedures from now on for probably the next four or five years.

JASON OM: The states and territories have already rolled out policy changes in response to the Commission’s interim report.

They include a new national bushfire warning system with more emphasis on leaving as a best option.

The final report praises those changes, but Euan Ferguson says more needs to be done on community refuges and planning for evacuations.

EUAN FERGUSON: It strengthens the need to look at refuges and in particular community refuges. So that’s a new area of work that we’ll have to look for.

The Commission has said that Victoria needs to develop policies for evacuation. South Australia, through the State Emergency Management Committee have policies for evacuation but it’s an area that we’ll have to look at again in the context of how the Royal Commission have phrased it and consider perhaps adopting some more explicit policies.

JASON OM: In Tasmania, where some communities live in heavily wooded areas, there’s support for changes to planning and building codes.

Mike Brown is the Tasmania Fire Service’s chief officer.

MIKE BROWN: Clearly where people are choosing to live in bushland areas and interface areas around the edges of our cities, we need some better understanding with the people that live there about the type of risk they live with and also we need some better legislative controls about the types of places they can develop.

JASON OM: The New South Wales Government has committed to responding to some of the recommendations.

The commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons wants any changes to be put in place soon.

SHANE FITZSIMMONS: The fire season starts earlier in the northern part of New South Wales, which can be September. The statutory season kicks in on the 1st of October.

We’re very mindful of that time period and therefore we will make sure over the coming weeks we carefully consider and identify where there are any shortcomings.

JASON OM: Over the next few weeks, the fire services in each state will hold their own meetings with the relevant ministers.

And with the next bushfire season starting in a few months in some states, there’ll be little time to waste.


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