After Canberra’s ‘summer of smoke’, Greens plan for future smoke crises


Following Canberra’s recent smoke crisis, the ACT Greens will today put forward a motion calling on the ACT Government to deliver a comprehensive plan to manage the impacts of smoke and poor air quality in the Territory.

This follows weeks of “calamitous” smoke that saw the nation’s capital choking on the world’s worst air quality; offices, Government agencies and national institutions shut down; dozens of sporting and community events cancelled; and hundreds of Canberrans seeking out medical treatment as a result of smoke and poor air quality.

The ACT Greens motion calls on the ACT Government to create a Whole of Government strategy on smoke and air quality in the ACT, to be completed and released before the beginning of the next fire season.

The recent smoke calamity has given rise to unprecedented and largely unforeseeable conditions that the Greens argue should be closely considered. This includes, but is not limited to, the:

  • extent and quality of indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring and data;
  • availability and distribution of face masks;
  • ability of buildings to protect people from smoke;
  • measures to protect vulnerable people from smoke;
  • air quality standards for workers, especially outdoor workers;
  • air quality standards for events, including sporting events;
  • mental health and wellbeing support during extended smoke events;
  • availability of public places for people to shelter from smoke; and
  • availability of public information and research on air quality issues.

“There’s no question that the smoke has impacted every member of our Canberra community, in every part of our lives,” ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said today.

“It’s been a calamitous time for the Territory. For weeks, our city choked on the smoke of the worst air quality in the world. We saw in the New Year through a haze of thick orange smoke.

“Many individuals and families left our city or stayed away during the height of the smoke crisis.

“We’ve had hundreds of Canberrans visit hospitals, walk-in centres and GPs to deal with their health impacts of the smoke.

“It’s been almost apocalyptic and very surreal, to watch Canberrans walk and ride around town in air pollution masks that look like something out of a horror film.

“We’ve had parents deeply concerned for the impacts of this smoke on their children.

“Sadly, with climate change a reality, these events may not be a one-off. Fire seasons are worsening. As part of adapting, and to ensure Canberrans are protected in the future, we need a comprehensive plan in place to make sure we can respond to smoke and air quality problems.

“We must act now to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for any similar events in future – events that are potentially more likely to occur as a result of climate change.

“The bushfire emergency is a climate emergency. The Greens are committed to putting people and planet first, and taking action to mitigate climate change and prepare Canberra for the realities of a warming planet,” Mr Rattenbury added.