Qld remains at risk of bushfires

Bushfires: Why Qld is still at risk


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FIRE STORM: LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington (right) and Member for Scenic Rim, Jon Krause, inspecting the devastation near Canungra.

FIRE STORM: LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington (right) and Member for Scenic Rim, Jon Krause, inspecting the devastation near Canungra.

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Key recommendations stemming from devastating bushfires more than a decade ago remain only partially implemented.

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KEY recommendations stemming from devastating bushfires more than a decade ago remain only partially implemented despite repeated claims by government it is doing everything necessary to minimise fire threats.

With catastrophic fires currently ripping through parts of the state, the Queensland Audit Office's report released in 2014-15 drew on experiences from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, the Malone Review into Rural Fire Services in Queensland 2013, and the (Queensland) Police and Community Safety Review 2013.

However, in a follow-up audit released in October, 2018 the QAO found Queensland Fire and Emergency Services had not fulfilled any of the seven recommendations made in its initial report.

It remains unclear how much more progress has been made in the past 10 months.

According to that 2018 report released by the QAO, Queensland was not as prepared for bushfires because the QFES was response focused to the detriment of coordinating effective mitigation programs.

Queensland fires as of September 11. Source - www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au

Queensland fires as of September 11. Source - www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au

"Without a central authority coordinating and mitigation activities statewide, QFES's ability to respond to a bushfire event effectively and efficiently was hampered," the report reads.

"Communities in high-risk bushfire prone locations remained exposed to a higher level of risk than they should be.

"The inability of QFES to target effective educational activities efficiently meant QFES was unaware if community members were prepared for bushfires."

The QOA found that while QFES had a legislative responsibility, its visibility and oversight of the state's bushfire risks was limited.

"As QFES's bushfire planning was response-focused, its plans contained minimal information about bushfire prevention and preparedness," the report reads.

"QFES also was not recording fire hazard inspections or appropriately documenting its assessment of the bushfire hazard.

"QFES was unaware if required hazard-reduction burns (burn-offs) occurred and whether they were effective.

"It also didn't know if Queensland's fuel loads were being managed effectively (fuel loads refer to the volume of vegetation that is available to burn during a bushfire such as dry grass, fallen bark and leaf litter)."

The report also found that individual communities located in high-risk bushfire-prone areas did not have local bushfire plans and were less prepared for the threat of bushfires than they could be.

LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had serious questions to answer over why her government had failed to finalise any of the QAO recommendations.

"Our firefighters and volunteers do an incredible job, but they deserve a government that takes bushfire management seriously," Ms Frecklington said.

"Queenslanders also deserve workable vegetation management laws to ensure landholders can manage fuel loads on their own properties.

Queenslanders also deserve workable vegetation management laws to ensure landholders can manage fuel loads on their own properties. - Deb Frecklington

"Water security is also crucial to ensure firefighters have appropriate resources to draw on to respond to bushfires."

Ms Frecklington said a parliamentary inquiry into last year's bush fires remained necessary.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said since April QFES had completed or helped with dozens of mitigation activities, including hazard reduction burns, community education and fire breaks as part of Operation Cool Burn.

"Plus, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is continuing its hard work in bushfire mitigation, and last year conducted more than 300 planned burns that covered more than a million hectares - 62 per cent higher than the targeted amount," Mr Crawford said.

"The Palaszczuk government has also committed a further $16 million to its Fire Management Project, further underscoring our commitment to keeping Queenslanders safe."

Mr Crawford said after last year's catastrophic season, which saw 2611 fires result in some four million hectares of land being burnt, QFES was equipped to deal with more major bushfires.

QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said the Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook showed conditions did not match the 2018-19 season.

"But we can't afford to rest on our laurels," Mr Wassing said.

"We are well placed to tackle the impending bushfire season with improvements made in areas such as command and control, logistics, communications and information management."

CLICK HERE to see Queensland's current fires.

Green Shirts Movement convener Martin Bella said the fire risk was increased as a direct of increased fuel loads, made worse by hardline vegetation management laws.

"I want to see the people in charge standing on a 10m break when fire is screaming down at them," Mr Bella said.

"Land has to be properly managed.

"That means being allowed to get in and clean up rubbish like lantana and cats claw, properly thin timber and put in realistic breaks.

"There is always a fire season. It's been made worse by a high fuel load and a cold winter with frosts."

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