Sunday, August 01, 2010

royal commission hands down its findings

It has been an important weekend for those communities in fire affected areas as well as the broader community in high fire risk areas as we waited for the report of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Staff from Yarra Ranges made sure that hard copies of the report were available for community members at both the Healesville and Lilydale libraries over the weekend.

The report spans some 4 volumes which will take some time to work through but I have had a chance to look at the 67 recommendations from the Royal Commission.

I certainly welcome the recommendations of the Royal Commission. At this stage we don't know whether the government will take up all the recommendations, however it is clear that bushfire policies need to change.

Late last year I had the opportunity to speak as a witness at the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. I was there to give evidence about the process of designating Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

I followed the process of NSPs very closely and was directly involved with the development of the Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan and onsite inspections of potential NSPs. Commissioners were interested to hear how designation was progressing from the perspective of a councillor and a resident in a high fire danger area.

I look forward to more clarity on vital community safeguards such as the Prepare Act Survive policy, early evacuation, bushfire shelters/neighbourhood safer places and other options for high fire risk communities.

We know from CSIRO predictions that the likelihood of these extreme events under a climate change scenario is greater and we need to ensure preparedness for what will be more frequent and severe events.

I think that the outcome for any action we undertake must be that we make communities safer. Without that as the main focus our efforts will be in vain. With that in mind I was pleased to see the emphasis the Royal Commission has put on the need to gather data and establish a national centre for bushfire research.

It is only with comprehensive scientific understanding that we can truly take actions with some surety that it will protect communities and make them safer places to be.

Council will be examining the recommendations in some detail over the coming weeks, I will be focusing particularly on those recommendations that affect the Dandenong Ranges and other high fire risk areas in the Shire.

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