High-risk bushfire areas still without last-resort refuges

High-risk bushfire areas still without last-resort refuges

01 June 2011

published by www.theage.com.au

Australia — SOME of Victoria’s highest-risk bushfire areas will remain without a refuge of last resort during this summer’s fire season.

A report on implementing the government’s response to the Black Saturday Royal Commission revealed there were 117 neighbourhood safer places in Victoria, with 37 located in the 52 ”high-risk bushfire areas”.

The report stated it had been difficult to find safe places, such as sports ovals and halls, in areas such as the Dandenong, Macedon and Otway ranges.

A further 27 possible sites have been identified, but many of these sites require significant work and not all will be complete by the 2011-12 fire season.

”The taskforce also concluded that there were some locations where no potential neighbourhood safer place sites could be established,” the report stated.

Councils have been allocated $13 million to help establish more neighbourhood safer places.

Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan said the state government was investing more than $900 million to implement all of the commission’s recommendations and that the implementation plan detailed how and when.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan said the $13 million in funding would deliver new neighbourhood safer places in the most challenging areas of the state where councils had not been able to establish shelter options without financial assistance.

In a speech to Parliament last August, then opposition leader Ted Baillieu criticised the former Brumby government for not having implemented key bushfire commission recommendations, including those on neighbourhood safer places.

Opposition bushfire response spokeswoman Jacinta Allan said many of the actions reported had been put in place by the former Labor government, saying there was ”no detail” on how the government would meet its promise to implement all of the commission’s 67 recommendations.

The report said last summer’s fire season presented challenges on bushfire education as low temperatures and wet weather ”reduced community perception of bushfire risk”.

It also reported:

■Changes to state laws to introduce a scale to grade emergencies before reaching a ”state of disaster” would not reach Parliament until 2012.

■Operational limitations with the DC-10 water bombers trialled during the 2009-10 fire season in Victoria, including their use around urban areas.

The Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce will report on the replacement of power lines in high-risk bushfire areas by the end of September.

Former police chief commissioner and bushfire implementation monitor Neil Comrie will report to Parliament on progress on July 21, 2012.

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