Bushfire Risk Management

Bushfire Risk Management

Principles

The Greens NSW recognise that:

1. Climate change, and associated extreme weather behaviour, is increasingly a driver of high intensity bushfires, and no bushfire mitigation strategy can alone compensate for failure to reduce greenhouse emissions;

2. It is vital that assumptions about bushfire prevention, mitigation, control and management are constantly reviewed in light of projected changes to our climate, changes to the environment, advances in fire-control technology, and research on ecologically sustainable environmental management;

3. First Nations peoples have a long history of land management through use of fire. This understanding of fire in natural ecosystems, combined with scientific study, should inform fire agencies and land managers especially in ecological bushfire management, threat, and hazard mitigation work. This will require appropriate funding and resourcing, including for First Nations cultural burning educators and practitioners;

4. It is important to ensure First Nations representation on all bushfire management committees at both the State and local level;

5. Hazard reduction activities including manual, mechanical and prescribed burning should be strategically planned to protect the community, vulnerable assets, encompass the welfare of people and wildlife, and protect ecosystem resilience;

Hazard reduction should be used in conjunction with a range of regulated land management strategies including early detection and rapid response to unplanned fires;

Burning and clearing of vegetation contributes to climate change. Recent research has challenged assumptions about broad area land-clearing and logging being fuel reduction measures;

6. Comprehensive assessment and regulation are required across all land tenures and seasons to ensure that any prescribed burning:

a)     maximises strategic value rather than simply meets prescribed targets for the area burnt;

b)     is consistent with the most recent scientific research on effective long-term fuel reduction; and

c)     maintains ecological values and protects First Nations’ cultural values;

7. Many vegetation communities and plants cannot survive frequent fire. For this reason frequent fire has been listed as a key threatening process by the NSW Scientific Committee under the NSW Biodiversity Act;

8. Some vegetation communities, for example heath and woodland, can undergo a decline in plant and animal diversity with long-term fire exclusion. Ecologically appropriate fire regimes are required to maintain biodiversity within these ecosystems;

9. Fire management authorities and landowners/managers should have training, education and appropriate resourcing, consistent with up-to-date scientific evidence and legal requirements for ecologically sustainable fire management;

10. Urban development should not be permitted in identified bushfire-prone areas if it:

a) requires the clearing of native vegetation for fire mitigation purposes, including on adjoining properties, or

b) is likely to put lives or property in danger, or

c) involves substantial protection and suppression costs including loss of environmental values;

Aims

The Greens NSW will work towards:

11. Requiring fire permits at all times of the year, in order to ensure safe burning practices in our changing climate;

12. An urgent increase in the NSW Government budgets for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and the firefighting capabilities of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Forestry Corporation, to increase firefighter numbers on the ground, to reinvest in strategic bushfire fighting and planning, and to meet or exceed funding levels of other states. This should include both the creation of more paid full-time and part-time positions, and financial compensation for emergency service volunteers when working on a fire where the RFS Commissioner has taken charge because of either the scale of the fire or the response needed to the fire (campaign fires as declared under Section 44 of the Rural Fires Act);

13. A requirement for best practice environmental assessment before all non-emergency activities or works that are proposed to be undertaken in accordance with a bushfire risk management plan;

14. A government commitment to funding long-term bushfire research, including long-term modelling, development of new technologies and improved capabilities for immediate detection of new ignitions, especially in remote areas, to allow for rapid response to contain new fires to small areas;

15. Implementation of publicly-funded school and community-based bushfire prevention programs and strategies to minimise the occurrence of bushfires and maximise community preparedness;

16. Encouragement of provisions in council Local Environment Plans to protect native bushland by prohibiting urban development that requires clearing of native vegetation for fire mitigation purposes;

17. NSW rebuilding its role as a world leader in bushfire research, with particular emphasis upon prevention and firefighting in a changing climate, cultural burning techniques, ecological sustainability and the maintenance of biodiversity;

18. Ensuring optimum cooperation between the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and other firefighting authorities and land managers, through effective operation of all Bushfire Management Committees, while supporting in the long term the move towards a single fire service in NSW that acknowledges and respects the contributions of paid and volunteer fire fighters;

19. The provision of funding for research into arson, anti-arson education and early intervention programs;

20. Supporting the right of all NSW firefighters to appropriate personal protective equipment, fire ground resources (including fire appliances) and training to enable them to work in a safe and effective manner. In the event that what constitutes adequate equipment is disputed, the industrial organisations representing firefighters are the best judges in this matter;

21. Improving lines and means of communications and coordination between all branches of emergency services;

22. Continuously developing and deploying community alert systems to ensure that the most effective, broad ranging and resilient communication and alert systems are in place;

23. Providing local government with all necessary resources and finances to enable the proper implementation of its responsibilities;

24. A comprehensive network of air quality monitors to provide easily accessible and up-to-date information and clear public health advice on mitigating the health damage from smoke pollution;

25. The funding by Resilience NSW of:

a)     The creation and support of a network of community resilience hubs in every locality to facilitate the involvement and empowerment of communities in their bushfire preparedness, crisis resilience, recovery and renewal, including training in participatory decision making and conflict resolution;

b)     Facilitation by local government of community engagement through participatory assemblies to advocate for community-led disaster recovery and preparedness and connect people with government;

26. Government grants or subsidies to encourage and assist property owners in bushfire-prone areas to retrofit existing homes and ensure new homes comply with best practice fire resistant building standards to both protect assets and reduce pressures on surrounding natural bushland and native vegetation;

27. Rapid suppression of fires that threaten life, property or biodiversity values. Where a fire is being monitored or allowed to remain active for hazard reduction or ecological reasons, the relevant local bushfire management committee should be immediately informed and advice sought by the relevant agency controlling the fire;

28. An Australian-based and registered national aerial firefighting capability;

29. The creation of a universal bushfire insurance scheme funded by an equitable statewide levy to provide minimum bushfire recovery and rebuilding assistance to bushfire-impacted residents and communities. The scheme would be based on the successful publicly-owned NZ earthquake insurance scheme and would include assistance for renters and homeowners who lose their homes to fire. The coverage would be restricted to existing and rebuilt properties in fire prone areas with the potential of being extended as more regions become fire-prone as a result of the impacts of climate change;

30. Ensuring that all communities potentially at risk have state-funded neighbourhood safe places for evacuation with off-grid renewable power and water supplies, adequate space for safe refuge and HEPA air filtration, and are fully pre-stocked with adequate crates for safety of pets and families and supplies covering the basic needs of all members of the community including babies, such as first-aid supplies, sanitary care items, nappies, bedding, tinned and dry food; and

31. Increasing support for isolated fire-prone communities with access to firefighting trailers and appropriate training to help them protect their homes where it is viable and safe, and when other state or local firefighting resources are likely to be unable to access the area during a fire event.

 

Useful Background information:

1) Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

2) Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements

3) Unprecedented smoke‐related health burden of 417 additional premature deaths from the 2019–20 bushfires in eastern Australia, Medical Journal of Australia

 

Last updated: March 2021