Australia — A TRIPLING of fuel reduction burning is expected to be the centrepiece of the State Government’s response to the bushfire royal commission’s final report.
Premier John Brumby announced the state’s first Fire Services Commissioner – a post recommended by the Black Saturday inquiry – would be former Country Fire Authority deputy chief fire officer Craig Lapsley.
Mr Lapsley, a firefighter for almost 30 years, was once a deputy to former CFA chief Russell Rees, and was involved in the response to Black Saturday as the director of emergency management at the Department of Human Services.
Mr Brumby said Mr Lapsley would need to take clear control on fire emergency days and “knock heads together” to get things done.
“We believe Mr Lapsley has the leadership skills and extensive experience in firefighting and emergency management to drive a new era of reform in our firefighting services,” he said. Mr Lapsley said mandatory evacuation of neighbourhoods must also be looked at as part of the Government’s policy review.
A Fire Services Commissioner was a major recommendation in the royal commission’s final report, which criticised a lack of leadership and strategy on Black Saturday, when 173 people died.
Mr Brumby, who is due to announce the official response to the commission’s final report next week, said the Government agreed in principle with a tripling of fuel reduction burning across Victoria, but details of “timing and implementation” still needed to be worked out.
Such an increase would be expected to lead to the burning of about 385,000ha of Victoria’s public land.
More fire refuges are tipped to be built in high fire-risk zones and changes to household building codes are expected to be approved.
But Mr Brumby is expected to rule out burying power lines underground because of the huge cost, much of which would be passed to households through higher bills.
Senior Government sources said buybacks of properties in high-risk areas would also not get Cabinet approval.
The Government has said it supports 59 of the commission’s 67 recommendations, but the cost of those two recommendations has been estimated at $10 billion.