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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

ACT 2020 bushfire review calling for change

Future commitment to volunteer firefighters, protection of whole farmland, and bans on residential development in high risk bushfire zones were some suggestions put forward yesterday at the review of the 2019-20 ACT bushfire season.

The first of three public hearings took place with the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety on Tuesday (28 July) into the review of ACT Emergency Services response to the 2019-20 bushfire season.

Volunteer firefighter Gary Mayo spoke to the committee about his submission, which stated the need for an ACT Government commitment for the future of volunteer firefighters.

“It is vitally important to volunteers that their commitment and training as fire fighters has some certainty,” the submission read.

“Given the poor funding, consultation and use of the volunteers it is not difficult to foresee a scenario with a tightening on funding, displacement of roles by both PCS (Parks and Conservation Service) and F&R (Fire & Rescue) that will see the volunteers cease to exist under some executive order.”

Mr Mayo told the committee on Tuesday, the effects of climate change and hotter summers would see more catastrophic bushfires which would need all resources.

“Without an increase in resources, the ACT will struggle to fight a prolonged campaign fire,” he said. 

“The interstate assistance that we rely on may well not be available because they will be engaged in their own fires as they were in this fire season.”

ACT Rural Landholders’ Association committee member Steve Angus spoke on behalf of the association, detailing its concern about only a farmhouse being defined as an asset, rather than the whole property. 

“Our main point is that the whole of the farm is an asset; it’s not just the house or the building,” he said. 

“At the end of the day, our fences, our internal fences, our pasture, everything is an asset and needs to be protected and that didn’t happen that year.”

The committee announced the review on 16 April, in the hopes the consultation would better prepare the ACT for future fire seasons.

The Ginninderra Falls Association Committee also made a submission, calling for the prohibition of residential land near steep slopes that result in high risk bushfire zones.

The second and third hearings will be held on 11 August and 18 August.

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