Too late to expand fuel reduction burns before Tasmanian fire season, Premier warns

Too late to expand fuel reduction burns before Tasmanian fire season, Premier warns

14 November 2013

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Australia — The Tasmanian Opposition is accusing the Government of failing to adequately prepare the state for the bushfire season.

The comment follows revelations that it is too late for the Government to ramp up fuel reduction program for this season.

A Government-commissioned review of January’s bushfire emergency criticised the state’s fuel reduction program, saying it needed to be expanded as a priority.

Premier Lara Giddings says the Government will spend more than $380,000 to increase the fuel reduction effort.

But Ms Giddings says it is not possible to increase the fuel reduction program for this season.

“I am satisfied, however, that everything is being done to learn from the fires and to improve our ability to manage these difficult events in the future,” she said.

The Premier told Parliament the state fire management council would release a fuel reduction strategy by May 2014.

Also, almost $100,000 will be spent on reviewing traffic management and evacuation procedures.

A further $250,000 will be used to buy 80 new radios for emergency services to improve their ability to communicate with one another.

“I do not claim that the measures that I am announcing today address all of the issues raised by the inquiry,” she said.

“However, I am pleased with the progress of the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations.”

Opposition spokeswoman, Elise Archer, says the state fire management council told Cabinet in 2011 that more needed to be done.

Ms Archer says the Government has had all year in which to prepare and respond.

“For the Premier to come out and say that it’s too late is simply unacceptable,” she said.

“It’s appalling that the Premier is simply denying Tasmanians adequate protection.”

The Government says it has increased planned reduction burns since January.

But Emergency Management Minister David O’Byrne says controlled burns are weather dependent.

“We need to do it safely and make sure we approach this in a strategic way,” he said.

The Government’s new fuel reduction strategy will be released in May.

What’s being spent:

$1.44 million in additional funding to address inquiry recommendations
$381,000 to target fuel reduction on public and private land, including $225,000 for three regional planners to identify fuel reduction priorities
$240,000 to improve emergency services communication
$300,000 to upgrade regional and state co-ordination facilities
$100,000 to Tasmania Fire Service to prepare policies and procedures
$96,500 for traffic management and evacuation
No new fuel burns other than planned by fire authorities
$240,000 to launch TasAlert, whole-of-government web portal to support communication with the public during an emergency, including via social media
State Fire Management Council to complete strategic fuel management plan by May

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