Nuff Nuff

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The outcome of the Royal Commission and the bushfires of Black Saturday

I’ve read the recommendations, I’m no expert and I don’t pretend to be, but here is what I see:-

Recommendation 1:- “Enhance the role of warnings” This is very hard given the fact that wind changes (which can’t be predicted) caused many of the problems on Black Saturday. People MUST be prepared and accountable for days of high fire danger. It’s not the Governments responsibility.
Recommendation 2:- “Community education programs” I live in an area that was on high alert that day, due to the fires starting about 20km away. I have yet to see a letterbox drop. I have not seen any communication in relation to community education programs. I’m sure they are there, but I have not seen anything advertised.
Recommendation 3:- “evacuation and shelter for vulnerable residents” I’d be interested to know the locations of these shelters, as the general public have nothing put aside for them yet. What about neighbours? – On Black Saturday, our street ensured that the vulnerable residents were accounted for and removed or under the care of someone capable.
Recommendation 4:- “Replacing the 2005 Fire Refuges in Victoria” There were NO fire refuges in Victoria in 2005, all refuges were deemed unsafe due to public liability issues. Personal shelters for individuals, who will monitor these to ensure their ongoing safety compliance?
Recommendation 5:- “encourage individuals—especially vulnerable people—to relocate early” This is the leave earlier policy in different wording.
Recommendation 6:- “national curriculum incorporates the history of bushfire in Australia” We can't teach Australian History in schools, how can we teach bushfire danger to kids, without someone complaining we are terrorizing their children into fearing the bush?
Recommendation 7:- “to develop a national bushfire awareness campaign.” Isn’t that what the stay or go policy is? An awareness campaign about the dangers of bushfires?
Recommendation 8:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 9:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 10:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 11:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 12:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 13:- “introduce a graded scale of emergency declarations short of a state of disaster.” By avoiding calling a ‘State of Emergency’ the local government saves a lot of money. That is why the Black Saturday Fires were not declared a state of emergency because the funding that is provided once this has been declared is greater than if it had not been declared a state of emergency.
Recommendation 14:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 15:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 16:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 17:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 18:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 19:- “provide to all CFA volunteers an identification card” This is good, finally, even when clothed in CFA clothing, water tankers were unable to get through road blocks. Finally some common sense for support vehicles and support personnel.
Recommendation 20:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 21:- “aerial resources that are suitable for firefighting “ Considering we hire/rent/lease a fire fighting aircraft from the USA and that on Black Saturday it was claimed that most aircraft on Australian shores could not fight fires in any degree or fashion.
Recommendation 22:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 23:- these are internal issues for CFA (Why is the DSE not also mentioned here?)
Recommendation 24:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 25:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 26:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 27:- I agree with the replacement of the SWER lines, but this has been recommended for many years. Electricity linesmen have been saying this for years, because of the lack of maintenance performed over the years, and now the state of disrepair of the electricity cabling, we are going to be forced to pay for this, perhaps as high as a doubling of power bills to fund this upgrade.
I have a SWER line 20m from my house, that spans 1km of treed (and housed) area, how can that go underground? The aerial bundling won’t stop the cable breaking, but the replacement of may reduce the risk for many years.
Recommendation 28:- “change their asset inspection standards” This is a certainty and essential commitment that MUST be complied with, as discussed in a sitting at the Royal Commission
Recommendation 29:- is really just a re-hash of 28
Recommendation 30:- “to reduce the risks posed by hazardous trees “ I honestly thought that this would have been part of normal inspection process that is supposed to be carried out on a regular basis.
Recommendation 31:- “the identification of hazardous trees and notifying the responsible entities” is this a form of back-up insurance? To make sure that the electricity companies are doing their job? What other risk could trees be, other than risk to powerlines?
Recommendation 32:- “disable the reclose function” only 6 weeks? – The fire season doesn’t abide by dates or calendars, why only 6 weeks? Yes this will mean more power outages for regional areas, but perhaps it is for the greater good.
Recommendation 33:- Spreaders should be fitting on all lines, regardless of location, I thought this would have been standard practice.
Recommendation 34:- “The State amend the regulatory framework” and “to require it to fulfil that mandate” ummmmm, again I thought this would have already been in place and that being the case, why mandate that the mandate be fulfilled?
Recommendation 35:- “coordinated statewide approach to arson prevention “ The police can’t control arsonists. If arsonists are discovered, they go to court, they are released again on bail (as happened in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne 2009) How can the police monitor that? – During peak fire season, if an arsonist is caught – they MUST be locked up for the duration of the fire season, it’s the only way to show a) we are serious, b) ease the workload on already stressed Police Officers.
Recommendation 36:- “National Action Plan to Reduce Bushfire Arson in Australia,” Relates again to Recommendation 35.
Recommendation 37:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government.
Recommendation 38:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government.
Recommendation 39:- These are internal issues for local Government
Recommendation 40:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government
Recommendation 41:- These are internal issues for DSE and local Government
Recommendation 42:- These are internal issues for DSE
Recommendation 43:- These are internal issues for DSE
Recommendation 44:- These are internal issues for CFA
Recommendation 45:- “to urgently adopt a bushfire policy” Why is the Murrindindi Council singled out here? There were other townships affected. But I do agree with the principle of the idea
Recommendation 46:- “develop and implement a retreat and resettlement strategy” Good idea in theory, but non-compulsory? – What does this mean? We all know under ‘compulsory’ acquisition, that the value is well-under market value. What does this mean to landowners who choose this option?
Recommendation 47:- “reducing the risk of ignition from ember attack” is a MUST for buildings in high-risk areas. In fact common sense in reality.
Recommendation 48:- is really just Recommendation 47 worded differently.
Recommendation 49:- again Recommendation 47 & 48 reworded
Recommendation 50:- “develop a standard for bushfire sprinklers and sprayers” This is a MUST but in saying that – people can’t afford copper piping AND the cost is massive (and the risk of theft the same) – what else can be done?
Recommendation 51:- “existing buildings in bushfire-prone areas can be modified” This is a good idea – but again, the building owners should have already thought and put into action further protection means for the buildings.
Recommendation 52:- “the regular assessment of landowners’ compliance with conditions” The council will baulk at this – the cost and manpower required will incur cost and the councils will be reluctant to follow through.
Recommendation 53:- “amend s. 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962 to require that a vendor’s statement include whether the land is in a designated Bushfire-prone Area” A good idea and allows for the potential purchaser to make decisions accordingly. The only failure of this, is that CFA are not compelled to attend properties in dead-end streets, This should also be commented on in the section 32, as a reminder of how alone you will actually be under the threat of fire.
Recommendation 54:- “issue fire prevention notices.” (Delegation is not a real issue) The CFA and MFB already do have this power, along with the council.
Recommendation 55:- “providing regular training and guidance material to planning and building practitioners” This should be encompassed under the council approval processes
Recommendation 56:- “a long-term program of prescribed burning” Correct, but there will be elements within society that disagree with this.
Recommendation 57:- “Department of Sustainability and Environment report annually on prescribed burning outcomes” again, as prescribed burning is done wholly within the domain of the DSE, This is covered within Recommendation 56.
Recommendation 58:- “long-term data collection to monitor and model the effects “ again, encompassed under Recommendations 56 & 57, with the reporting and increasing of burns.
Recommendation 59:- again encompassed under recommendations 56, 57 and 58. The use of wildfire was apt for the day of Black Saturday, but a ‘normal’ bushfire should be classified as such. A wildfire is just an increase in the strength of words, which is what the government wants.
Recommendation 60:- “the provisions allow for a broad range of roadside works capable of reducing fire risk” This decision (or change in rulings) will not appease some members of the community and cause Local Councils and Vicroads much hardship and possible confrontation in the field.
Recommendation 61:- “on resolving the competing tensions arising from the legislation affecting roadside clearing” addresses my exact concerns. Will the State and Commonwealth Governments have the guts to do this properly? The fires funnelled up the roadsides and creeks because of the quantity of scrub and rubbish in these areas.
Recommendation 62:- is just a rewording of 60 & 61.
Recommendation 63:- These are internal issues for Government and DSE and CFA
Recommendation 64:- “replace the Fire Services Levy with a property-based levy” This recommendation has long been fought for by insurance companies, the problem is will property insurance rates drop or remain stagnant because of this decision and what will be the effect on council rates?
Recommendation 65:- “a national centre for bushfire research” sounds like a good idea
Recommendation 66:- “assess progress with implementing the Commission’s recommendation” is definitely required, but will the time frames be fluffed to appease certain groups?
Recommendation 67:- “The State consider the development of legislation for the conduct of inquiries in Victoria” Is this a slap in the face for the Victorian Labor Government, in essence the governments response and knee-jerking regarding the interim report?

Now remember the above is MY PERSONAL views on the subject. I understand that CFA/DSE/MFB/Victoria Police policies along with Government rules and regulations, all have an impact on my life, but it’s not for me to dissect these decisions and possible outcomes. That is why I have avoided comment on recommendations encompassing those areas.

I still don’t think enough emphasis has been placed on personal responsibility; each and every adult who lives in a high fire danger area has a personal responsibility to every child and aged adult in their care. I don’t think this has been stressed enough.

Something that the media and the general public have been avoiding commenting on is the issuing of fire warnings. For three days prior to the tragic day of Black Saturday, the media was crawling with the Premier, the Chief of the CFA and others who stated quite clearly that Saturday the 7th February 2009, was going to be the worst day that Victoria had seen in many decades.

I understood that to mean that the risk of fire was basically inevitable and consequently could not be ignored. I was on alert and saw the smoke of the Kilmore fire long before anything was in the media. From that moment onwards I enacted our fire plan and ensured that everyone on the street was aware. Once the fire situation made it to the media my father was calling me, checking that we were organised, checking that we were okay.

The public were warned, perhaps not on the day – things were moving too quickly, I could only follow the fire from what I could visually sight. Not from the media, or the CFA website simply because the information must have been coming in too quickly.

I have blogged previously about the events after this time. I have no wish to re-visit that ground, it has been done and nothing can be changed.

Remember this blog is MY PERSONAL VIEW.

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