Australia — SOUTH Australia has refused to back Black Saturday Royal Commission calls to relocate people living in bushfire-prone areas and discourage new settlers in danger zones.
The State Government yesterday released its interim response to the commission and backed 60 of 67 findings, as well as retention of the “leave early or stay and defend” policy.
The majority of findings not immediately supported included calls to deter people from settling in known bushfire hotspots or relocate existing residents through non-compulsory land purchases.
Emergency Services Minister Michael Wright also announced a comprehensive push to list sites of “last resort” for people fleeing catastrophic fires.
The refuges would provide sanctuary from a bushfire in progress and protect residents from flames and radiant heat.
Refuges typically include existing spaces or structures, such as ovals or buildings.
“The CFS has already commenced work on identifying these sites and the additional resources will ensure that we have a comprehensive list of sites across South Australia before the start of the 2010-11 bushfire season,” Mr Wright said.
The Royal Commission was launched in response to the devastating fires that claimed 173 lives as they ripped through country Victorian towns, including Kinglake.
“This was a devastating incident that has already instigated many changes in terms of the way we educate, protect and warn people about the dangers of bushfires,” Mr Wright said.
“After analysing Victoria’s findings, SA’s Bushfire Taskforce has identified key areas the Government will now consult on before making any final decisions.”
Forty recommendations were supported in principle with more consultation required, while 18 recommendations are already in place in SA but will be reviewed in the wake of the report.
Mitcham Mayor Ivan Brooks said it was critical that building standards were boosted to prevent construction of houses with inadequate fire-resistance features.
Mr Brooks’s council area includes portions of the Adelaide foothills and several notorious fire danger spots.
“I think the State Government, via planning, should be very, very meticulous about what you can build in those sorts of areas,” he said.
“We can’t change what’s there but planning regulations have got to be really strong.”
CFS Volunteers Association executive director Wendy Shirley backed the Government’s interim response but called for new investment to recruit more members.
Black Saturday Report Recommendations
Enhance the role of warnings, including providing for timely and informative advice about the predicted passage of a fire and the actions to be taken by people in its path.
Emphasise that all fires are different in ways that require an awareness of fire conditions, local circumstances and personal capacity.
Recognise that the heightened risk on the worst days demands a different response.
Strengthen the range of options available in the face of fire, including community refuges, bushfire shelters and evacuation.
Ensure local solutions are tailored and known to communities through local bushfire planning.
Improve advice on the nature of fire and house defensibility, taking account of broader landscape risks.
Encourage individuals,especially vulnerable people, to relocate early.
Include consideration of plans for assisted evacuation of vulnerable people.
Recommend “emergency evacuation”.
Develop and implement a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing developments in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk, including a scheme for non-compulsory acquisition by the state of land in these areas.
Require a land vendor’s statement including whether the land is in a designated bushfire-prone area and statement about the standard to which the dwelling was constructed.
Implement a regional settlement policy that includes a process for responding to bushfire risk at the planning stage for new urban developments.
Substantially restrict new developments and subdivisions in those areas of highest risk.
Clarify new developments, and subdivisions will be approved only if the recommended bushfire protection measures, including the minimum defendable space, can be created and maintained on a continuing basis.