Queensland poised to lead new bushfire resilience standards

25 January 2020

Published by https://www.abc.net.au/

AUSTRALIA – Queensland is poised to lead Australia’s bushfire recovery efforts and shape new resilience standards, according to the state’s bushfire recovery coordinator.

Areas of the Scenic Rim and Gold Coast hinterland were some of the first to be affected by this summer’s bushfire crisis, with 11 houses and more than 6,000 hectares of land razed in September.

“Because our events happened that much earlier than other places, we’ve got an event to lead the way and to show the rest of Australia what’s possible,” state recovery coordinator Ian Stewart said.

“We’ve been doing that for a long time with our floods and cyclones.

“Now that we’re getting much more used to this new normal with the fire situation Queensland can be a big player, as well.”

Fire-resistant rebuilds

Fire bunkers, fire-resistant shrubs and fire-repelling architecture are options residents and tourism operators are incorporating into their rebuilds.

These are all design elements being considered by managers of Binna Burra Lodge in Lamington National Park, where historical buildings and the only access road were destroyed by the fire.

“You never know what can happen in the future,” said Binna Burra chairman Steve Noakes.

“There is technology around to have five bunkers in the ground for humans to survive major bushfires, and that’s something we’re taking a very serious look at now in the reconstruction of Binna Burra as an extreme emergency condition.”

Major works at the site are on hold, however, until repairs to the rugged access road are finished in March.

In the meantime, studies of the natural and built areas that stood up to the blaze are being factored into recovery plans, including the planting of 3,000 fire-resistant shrubs including wattles and heath.

“Who would have thought we would have done that six months ago in a subtropical environment?” Mr Noakes said.

“So we are an example of a tourism operator adapting to climate change induced changes in the landscape.

“This is a good opportunity for us to test and invest in and to show some leadership in the way it can be done.”

Secondary trauma

Mr Stewart said Queensland’s post-bushfire recovery extended beyond replacing burnt structures to building resilience across the community.

“It’s not just about houses burning down, or loss of stock or farms or businesses’ downturn and economic loss,” he said.

“I have a strong view that to protect our state even better and to protect our nation we’ve got to start thinking about resilience, community resilience in that broader term.”

That includes emotional supports throughout the entire recovery process, with distress continuing to be experienced in communities affected by the September fire.

“We’re seeing secondary trauma happen and people who’ve had a chance to sit down and really understand what impacted them, their family and their businesses,” Mr Stewart said.

“We’re seeing things like livestock being affected in a secondary way through smoke inhalation that they suffered way back then.

“Some of the stock are still dying even now, from the effects of the bushfires back all those months ago.”

Economic pain

Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen said tourism, one of the region’s major earners, had dropped off by 90 per cent since the fires and was yet to recover.

The sector contributes about $400 million to the region’s $1.8 billion annual earnings.

“If it continues through a 12-month period, there’ll be around $100 million of impact to the local economy,” Cr Christensen said.

“It is really tough for people to maintain the optimism without seeing people coming to their door.

“We are slowly seeing a return through our day traffic but we really need to see an uplift for our economy to stabilise and for jobs to be confident.”

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