Victoria Invests $867.3 Million For Bushfire Reforms

Victoria Invests $867.3 Million For Bushfire Reforms

13 October 2010

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Australia —  Mr Cameron said Mr Comrie would be responsible for auditing the progress of agencies and departments as they implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Mr Comrie will provide a progress report and final report to the Premier to table in the Parliament of Victoria.

Mr Comrie was appointed by the Government to monitor and audit progress of agencies and government departments in implementing interim recommendations of the Royal Commission.

The Victorian Government today also released its implementation plan, outlining the actions government departments and agencies would take to implement recommendations of the final report of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

The Government has outlined $867.3 million in new investments and reforms to the way Victoria prepares for and responds to future bushfires, stemming from recommendations of the Royal Commission as well as further measures.

It brings to almost $1.4 billion the new measures the Government has announced to address the threat of bushfires since the Black Saturday and Gippsland fires.

Key changes in the $867.3 million package include:

* Hundreds more firefighters and a doubling, then tripling of fuel reduction burn targets;

* A significant Increase in support for volunteer firefighters;

* New fire mapping technology for faster and more accurate community warnings;

* More funding to accelerate the roll-out of more Neighbourhood Safer Places;

* A tougher maintenance regime for electricity businesses and high visibility arson operations;

* Agreement to replace the Fire Services Levy with a progressive property-based levy and improvements to planning controls in bushfire-prone areas; and

* A major boost to community education and information about preparing for bushfires, including the introduction of bushfire education in the school curriculum.

Mr Cameron said the Government had supported in full or in part 66 of the 67 recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report and in implementing them, the foremost priority of every level of government and emergency services agency would be the protection of human life.

“We have already made big changes to how we prepare for and fight fires since the tragic Black Saturday and Gippsland fires, including investing over $1 billion towards the firefighting and reconstruction effort,” Mr Cameron said.

“Now we are going further and taking the next steps to continue driving a new focus on the protection and preservation of human life from the threat of bushfires.

“Our Government will act swiftly and decisively. We are determined that the actions we take, in partnership with emergency services agencies, local government, businesses and communities, unite Victorians in one commitment to do all we can to protect human lives from bushfires.”
Mr Comrie will deliver a progress report to the Premier by 31 July 2011 and a final report by 31 July, 2012 with both reports to be tabled in the Parliament of Victoria.

“Our Government took the decision to an appoint an independent monitor to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s interim recommendations because we wanted to take every necessary step in better preparing the State for the threat of bushfires,” Mr Cameron said.

“Mr Comrie did an excellent job in providing an independent assessment of how agencies and departments were progressing with interim recommendations which has been of great assistance in their ongoing work to implement changes and reforms. That’s why we have again appointed Mr Comrie to oversee and audit the implementation of final report recommendations.”

Key features of the Royal Commission recommendations implementation plan include:

* A large-scale increase in fuel reduction to 275,000 hectares of all public land over the next four years, rising to the 385,000 hectare target over the following two years:

* Significant changes to Victoria’s bushfire safety policy including enhanced warning systems, introducing bushfire education in the Victorian school curriculum, more community information and education and the development of evacuation guidelines for Police;

* Commitment of Victorian Government funding to the second stage of Emergency Alert, which will deliver warnings in the event of a life threatening emergency to a mobile phone based on its geographic location. The Commonwealth Government has also committed significant funding and it is being progressed through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG);

* Increasing the number Neighbourhood Safer Places, places of last resort in high bushfire risk areas and the development of other shelter options including new Safer Precincts in urban centres near high risk bushfire areas where people can go when a Fire Danger Rating of Code Red is declared (Safer Precinct);

* Changes to the Fire Danger Rating which will return it to the arch shape, remove the ‘catastrophic’ term in favour of Code Red as a call to action and adjustments to the trigger point for a Code Red declaration to ensure Code Red is only for the very worst of days;

* Roll-out of Operation Firesetter by Victoria Police between November 2010 and April 2011 which will involve high visibility, statewide anti-bushfire arson police patrols focusing on high risk bushfire areas and a Crimestoppers Arson Hotline;

* Development of an integrated building and planning hazard map and risk response framework to provide a single source of information on bushfire hazard levels and biodiversity and complemented by detailed mapping of high risk areas;

* Replacing the Fire Services Levy with a progressive property-based levy and introduction of concessions for low-income earners with the release of a proposed funding model for consideration early in 2011; and

* Extension of the Government’s 10/30 right for landowners which gives them the power to clear trees within 10 metres and other vegetation within 30 metres of their dwelling to improve property defendability.

Mr Cameron once again thanked the more than 1500 people involved in providing their views to the government ahead of its response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

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