SOUTH West MLC Nigel Hallett has called on the State Government to respond quickly to the 17 recommendations outlined in Euan Ferguson’s report into the 2016 South-West bushfire.
The report Reframing Rural Fire Management recommended sweeping reforms to improve bushfire prevention, including the creation of a separate rural fire service with responsibilities relating to the State’s bushfire prevention, preparedness and response activities.
Having strongly advocated for an increase in fuel reduction burning for a number of years, Mr Hallett, now representing Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party WA, welcomed the report and Mr Ferguson’s recommendation that Department of Parks and Wildlife focus on maintaining hazard reduction and fire management as the highest priority.
“It’s always been my view that greater investment in fire prevention and fuel reduction burning is central to effective bushfire management in WA”, Mr Hallett said.
“I’ve raised the issue in Parliament three times and despite strong criticism from the WA Liberal Party, moved a Private Members Motion in the Legislative Council on February 18 to highlight the need for urgent and bold structural changes to bushfire management in WA.
“The motion was presented to Parliament after visiting fire ravaged areas of Waroona and meeting with local residents who voiced serious concerns about the current bushfire management system.”
The Private Members Motion called on the Legislative Council to recognise a new arrangement for bushfire management was urgently required in WA, including the need to move away from emergency response and ‘all out suppression approach’, to one of fire prevention and damage mitigation.
It also said large bushfires resulted from failed land management and identified the need for the State Government to create a separate ‘country fire service’ to manage emergencies.
Mr Hallett said the motion brought to light the concerns of his constituents and the inability of a ‘city based’ fire fighting department to effectively manage fires in rural and regional areas.
“The current system, characterized by ‘top-down’ autocratic management is simply not working.
“I believe the Ferguson Report will be a catalyst for change and as an interim measure I’m calling on Mr Barnett to re-direct DFES funds to local shires and in conjunction with local volunteers, assume control of fire fighting services within their municipalities.
“As a matter of urgency, legislation to allow fire-fighting brigades to move machinery, vehicles and equipment onto Crown land must be addressed before this coming fire season.
“I am confident a more ‘grass roots’ approach will restore faith in our fire fighting capabilities and empower local residents to protect their own properties and that of their immediate neighbours.