Australia — Tasmania’s summer of devastation will yield its own lessons, says a veteran of South Australia’s deadly Wangary blaze who is now heading the island state’s bushfire inquiry.
Former SA police commissioner Malcolm Hyde began work this week on an independent inquiry into the Tasmanian fires that damaged or destroyed up to 400 properties in January.
Mr Hyde was a key figure when firefighters battled the blaze on the Eyre Peninsula in 2005.
It eventually cost nine lives, more than 200 buildings and 30,000 head of livestock, and was the subject of several reviews and an inquest. Advertisement
“It’s not a matter of saying ‘well we learnt that in South Australia, therefore we should do it here in Tasmania’,” he told AAP on Wednesday.
“Everything needs to be considered in its own context.
“I think it’s a bit of a mistake simply to expect to pick something up from some place and then put it down in your own area.”
The 63-year-old, who has recently been a special adviser to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse, has begun touring Tasmania’s bushfire-hit areas.
He visited the Derwent Valley northwest of Hobart on Wednesday and will next head to the worst affected area near Dunalley in the state’s southwest.
“They’re really just orientation-type visits, so it’s not just a matter of reading something or somebody telling you something, you’ve actually got a point of reference that you can relate it to,” he said.
The inquiry’s terms of reference focus on the first week of the Tasmanian fires, the worst in the state for half a century, when authorities began the recovery effort.
It is due to report by the end of September, a deadline Mr Hyde is confident of meeting.
He has stressed his independence from Tasmanian political circles and says his 45-year police career in Victoria and South Australia won’t affect his ability to be objective about the force’s performance during the crisis.
“I have to tap into those people, but you have to also stand back so that the material you’ve been given you can look at in an objective way,” he said.
“I don’t think my background in policing is going to be any issue at all.
“In fact it will be an advantage rather than disadvantage because … I know where some of the weaknesses are and where some of the problems are.”
The inquiry has called for public submissions, which are open until June 14.