Important recommendations from a review of the 2019/20 bushfires that ravaged the region will not be acted on by the Andrews Labor Government until 2024, leaving East Gippslanders to endure two more summers before shortfalls are addressed.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says the seriousness of the Inspector General of Emergency Management’s (IGEM) findings warrant a far quicker response.
Among many serious findings and observations made in the IGEM report were:
- The timber industry provides an important support capacity to fire management in Victorian forests with a skill set, knowledge base and operational experience in forest landscapes. The cessation of native forest harvesting by 2030 poses challenges for the fuel management program and bushfire response capacity across the state.
- There is a high level of dissatisfaction in some parts of the emergency management sector and the community in relation to fuel management.
- There is a lack of collective understanding of current and future personnel capacity requirements.
- Land managers and fire agencies responsible for roadside fuel management have inconsistent policy frameworks, objectives, budgeting arrangements and reporting regimes that has resulted in a lack of accountability and transparency for roadside fuel management.
- The high volume of information and warnings issued via the VicEmergency platform made it difficult to ensure the accuracy and relevance of information to recipients and created situations where individuals may have received conflicting advice regarding the management of different fires in the area.
- The existing capacity (including surge capacity) across the Victorian emergency sector was challenged.
“The report also states in several areas that protection of human life should be at the forefront of fuel management controls, but unfortunately there is considerable community sentiment that vegetation values are often given priority – the Government’s cessation of roadside clearing at Sarsfield being a prime example,” said Mr Bull.
“All of these critical issues should be addressed in the shortest possible timeframe, but here we have a government pushing not reviewing the Bushfire Code until 2024.
“It has justified this by saying consultation will be open for the remainder of 2022 and 2023 but all it does is show how blasé this Government is on such an important issue.”
“East Gippslanders are all too familiar with the Andrews Government failings of managing its own public land to mitigate bushfire risk and minimise impact on human life, so we will have another two summers to endure before changes are made to protect the community and to achieve common sense outcomes,” he said.