The most recent extraordinary ‘wildfires’ that have wreaked havoc across our shire, many other parts of Queensland and the wider nation, must surely serve as a wake-up call that something has to be done to mitigate future impacts.
It has become clear over recent years that the scale, intensity and frequency of natural disasters are on the increase. What is also clear is that if this trend continues these events will be a part of our life that we must all be better prepared to manage.
With 15 homes and more than 40 other significant structures destroyed as well as over 450 dwellings directly affected, with significant levels of loss or damage to property including vehicles, fences and machinery, this has been an unprecedented ‘wild-fire’ event for our region.
When considering the combined impacts of horticultural production and grazing land losses, the economic impacts on both the primary production sector and the broader regional economy, are equally severe.
Without the quick action and bravery of the rural fire brigades, who were the first-responders on the ground, along with the outstanding support and resources our region received during this disaster, the toll of damage and destruction would have been much greater.
While an event of this scale and complexity was challenging to the extreme, the response to this fast-moving and unpredictable ‘wild-fire’ event was robust and skilfully implemented with a well-coordinated effort from all emergency services and support agencies.
Now, as the recovery taskforces advance quickly to assist the community to get back on their feet, the first-responders and fire-fighting teams have already begun their important assessment and documentation of the lessons learned.
Looking forward it will be critical for both State and Federal Governments to join forces with Council and our local community by putting a greater level of investment into long-term mitigation and wild-fire management strategies.
While we will never be able to totally eliminate the risks presented by wildfires, a rolling five to ten year integrated bushfire risk management plan including annual maintenance funding for fire-trails and strategic fire breaks would drastically reduce overall fire risk levels.
Funding for other measures including mapping, installing and maintaining additional strategic fire breaks along with a greater focus and expansion of existing ‘cool-burns’ programs would be a ‘common-sense’ and well-placed investment that will save millions of dollars through preventative action. Work to advance a ‘whole of Shire’ implementation strategy plan to take to both the Federal and State Governments is already well underway.
The weeks and months ahead will be extremely challenging for everyone involved in the recovery effort. I would like to personally thank and commend every agency, community group, emergency service personnel, every volunteer and those who have made donations and offers of assistance for their commitment and efforts in helping to getting those members of our community most impacted back on their feet as swiftly as possible.
To all those who have suffered major loss our heartfelt thoughts go out to you along with the assurance that our community will be behind you in every way possible.