Submission to the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements

Bushfires are a recurring, and mostly beneficial, feature of Australia’s ecology, with many plants and species evolved to depend on regular fires. However severe bushfires represent a threat to human life and property, a threat which is increased by population growth and greater human habitation in more remote areas on the outskirts of cities, and in rural and regional areas. This requires good stewardship of the resources to reconcile the balance between human and environmental needs.

Our full submission to the comission may be read by clicking here.

While there are many policies that could make a difference, we have chosen three areas where the Commonwealth Government can have greatest impact, accepting that the primary responsibility for actual bushfire management will, and should, remain with the state governments.

The general issues we wish to address: –

  • Need for a strong leadership, assessment, monitoring, training, performance focused federal body, supported by matching state agencies
  • Urgent need for national monitoring, assessment, reporting and modelling of calibrated fuel load models, driven by realistic meteorological models
  • Resilience built into systems that prevents extreme impacts and can undertake resilience testing scenarios for a range of individual and combined disaster combinations
  • Consideration of international models, such as FEMA and others that have experience of a wide range of natural disasters eg extreme weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, bushfires, etc

On the specifics of the terms of references identified in the “Letters of Formation” we would respectfully put forward the following comments/recommendations for your consideration on matters b), c) and f):

  1. The Federal Government undertake a review of the latest monitoring, reporting, analysis of key factors such as fuel loads (in the case of bushfires) and enforce a performance reporting system that provide foresight for impending buildups of natural disasters, much as we do with cyclones/floods etc.
  2. The Federal Government, using the USA’s Federal Emergency Management Agency as a potential model, clearly define the framework and resources needed to ensure that the managers of future natural disasters have rapid/immediate access to information networks that can inform them of situations, emerging incidents and direct access to physical resources to ameliorate the disaster(s), and that the State agencies and political entities are intimately involved and endorse this process/framework.
  3. The Federal Government oversees our national highways to ensure that they are protected from the potential natural disasters such as bushfires, floods etc, and institutes whatever legal requirements are necessary to ensure hazard reduction, flood and land management are consistent with this goal.