|Rebecca White MP
- Firefighters and Parks and Wildlife workers heroes of this summer’s bushfires
- Tasmanian Government must now establish Independent Inquiry into the fires and the response
- Premier should immediately employ more permanent staff to implement thorough fuel reduction strategy
Labor Leader Rebecca White has today called on the Tasmanian Government to establish an independent Inquiry into recent bushfires over the summer period.
The Inquiry should at a minimum investigate:
- Causes for the fires;
- All aspects of the emergency response;
- The transition from response to recovery, including support for individuals and businesses;
- The preparation from all levels of government to deal with fires. This should include a detailed review of recommendations from:
o The 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry, established to inquire into fires that started at Forcett, Bicheno and Lake Repulse;
o The 2016 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Bushfire and Climate Change Research Project and the Tasmanian Government’s response, established after fires affected approximately 126,800 ha across the state, including an estimated 19,800 ha (around 1.3 per cent) of the iconic Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area; and
o Responses to, and lessons learnt from, the January and February 2016 bushfires in remote Tasmanian wilderness, Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications report, December 2016.
- The impact of the significant reduction in staff at Sustainable Timber Tasmania and its contractor workforce on its ability to respond to the fires;
- The levels of staffing in the Tasmanian Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife, and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania;
- The impact Federal and State environmental regulations have on firefighting efforts in the TWWHA; and
- The communication practices utilised during the bushfire event. This includes community alerts and warnings, tv, print and radio advertising, social media, community doorknocking.
Ms White said that now that the emergency fire situation has eased to the “Advice” or “No Alert Level”, it was time to see what can be learned for future events.
“Fires in the Huon, the Central Highlands, the West Coast, Bruny Island and in Tasmania’s World Heritage Areas have destroyed and threatened homes, business and the environment this summer,” Ms White said.
“I have been amazed by the strength of local communities, and the bravery and dedication of our firefighters.
“Labor Members and I have visited affected areas over the past two months to thank these people and to offer our support.
“We are now calling on the Government to establish an independent Inquiry to look at the causes, the response and what we can learn from these fires.
“Past inquiries in 2013 and 2016 identified practical solutions to problems that were identified.
“Many of these recommendations continue to be ignored by the Hodgman Government. We must make sure that we are better prepared.
“We must give all Tasmanian firefighters the tools and resources they need to keep people, homes and businesses safe, and protect World Heritage Areas from further devastation.
“The Government should immediately fill current vacant firefighter positions and transfer seasonal firefighters in Parks to permanent employment. This would enable them to maintain a greater capacity to respond to fires and implement effective fuel reduction strategies.”