Bushfire program’s future in question

Bushfire program’s future in question

03 October 2014

published by https://au.news.yahoo.com

Australia — A Bushfire Risk Management Plan focused on the Gnarabup-Prevelly area was developed by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River with seed funding to potentially roll it out across WA.

However, the BRMP pilot was recently declined funding by the WA Government Cabinet pending a more detailed review of the program.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis was tight-lipped in the face of inquiries, only saying further evaluation needed to occur.

The reason for declining funding was not identified and there was no guarantee the pilot program remained an option into the future.

“We need to ensure that taxpayers are getting value for money,” Mr Francis said.

The Shire reported the funding knockback at its last Bushfire Advisory Committee meeting, but more specific details were scarce pending feedback from the Government and other agencies.

A community forum in early September was cancelled for lack of interest, though Shire bushfire risk planning co-ordinator John Carter said the forum would be rescheduled to inform residents about planned mitigation work.

“The initial submission by (the Department of Fire and Emergency Services) to extend the BRMP project was not approved in its current form and DFES will be providing a review to the minister and (the State Emergency Management Committee) outlining the possible opportunities and constraints to extend the program,” Mr Carter said.

“The Shire will wait on the outcomes of this review prior to determining the future opportunities to extend the BRMP across the Shire.”

DFES had funded Mr Carter’s employment until the end of the year, working in conjunction with other South West local governments.

“This process will allow for the prioritisation of works to ensure that we are using the scarce resources in the best possible way, targeting the key assets and working together to provide for the best outcome possible,” he said.

The pilot would eventually extend from Redgate Road to Gracetown and west to Caves Road, and the Shire was confident DFES would release early funds for a community engagement project ahead of the coming bushfire season.

DFES deputy commissioner Steve Fewster said a comprehensive review of the pilot was underway, which included developing a handbook and training package.

“Some local governments have been involved in a form of bushfire risk management planning in the past, however this new strategy is aimed at ensuring a consistent approach to bushfire risk assessment across tenures and between local government areas,” he said.

Although Comm. Fewster did not offer any insight into the future funding or prospects of the pilot, he said DFES and the Office of Bushfire Risk Management would “continue to work with local governments and other stakeholders on bushfire risk mitigation into the future”.

More mitigation works, including existing plans co-ordinated by multiple agencies, would continue in tandem with the pilot program, Mr Carter said.

Comm. Fewster said DFES would review the finished pilot and provide a report to Mr Francis and the SEMC on the future direction of the BRMP project.

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