Australia — VICTORIA has unveiled a major overhaul of its emergency management after determining the response to recent floods and the 2009 bushfires was no longer adequate.
Premier Ted Baillieu released a white paper outlining the proposed changes on Monday, saying it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform emergency management.
“The reforms outlined in this paper recognise that preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergency is a shared responsibility of all Victorians,” he told reporters.
“Everybody has to be engaged and everybody has to be willing to collaborate as part of an emergency management system.”
Mr Baillieu said the state has learned from the Black Saturday bushfires and recent floods that current disaster management arrangements are “no longer adequate”.
“There are shortcomings and the intention of this white paper is to address those shortcomings,” he said.
The plan includes a new commissioner who will oversee Victorian emergencies, from floods and bushfires to disease outbreaks, and a new oversight body put in charge during major incidents.
Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan said the plan focuses on community, collaboration and capability.
Under the proposed changes, the state government will create Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and appoint an emergency management commissioner.
“There will be one person who is ultimately responsible,” Mr Ryan said.
“It will rid us once and for all of any uncertainty of who is actually in control.”
The emergency management plan would only apply during major disasters, not smaller bushfires, floods or other incidents, he said.
Mr Ryan stressed that there would be no amalgamations of any existing emergency services, even though some pushed for such changes during consultations.
Four new government committees will replace 44 existing committees to streamline efforts.
“It will give certainty as to who actually runs the show,” Mr Ryan said.
He said the whole idea was to create a structure that avoided the confusion that occurred on Black Saturday.
The February 2009 Victorian disaster saw 173 people lose their lives.
United Firefighters Union spokesman Mick Tisbury described the changes as superficial because the government had rejected a recommendation for the creation of a single state firefighting service.
“I don’t know why the government has decided not to go down that track – obviously there’s a lot of politics involved,” he told reporters.
“Let’s stop playing politics with people’s lives.”
Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Jacinta Allan said Labor would back the changes but said they meant little with budget cuts to the CFA and the MFB.
“No amount of changing names and changing operational systems is going to change the fact that Ted Baillieu and Peter Ryan have inflicted $66 million of budget cuts on our fire services,” she said. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.