With the growing frequency and number of catastrophic wildfire events now occurring across Australia, it is time for Federal and State Governments to jointly commit to working more pro-actively with Local Government, rural fire brigades and landowners at the ‘grassroots’ level to develop and fund integrated ‘whole of region’ management plans and strategies.
This was one of the key messages Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig gave Andrew Colvin, the newly appointed Coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, when he visited to talk about what was needed for both the immediate recovery and long-term resilience strategies moving forward.
“Taking a bi-partisan approach where all three levels of government work together in partnership with local brigades and landowners to develop and fund an overarching ‘whole of region’ strategy must be the starting point,” Mayor Ludwig said.
“Working strategically from the ‘grass-roots’ up to advance a ‘whole of region’ implementation strategy plan is just common sense. It is also a well-placed investment that will make our community safer and save millions of dollars through preventive action.
“While we will never be able to totally eliminate the wildfires risks ‘pilot programs’ to develop and implement rolling five to ten year fully integrated management plans, including annual maintenance funding for fire-trails and strategic fire breaks, would drastically reduce overall fire risk levels.
“All too often local rural fire brigades are expressing their frustration when local knowledge is ignored or overlooked by a perceived traditional ‘top-down’ approach when it comes to developing bushfire strategies and operational procedures. Governments can and must recognise the need to review this issue and change their approach.
“Other key issues are the need for additional capital funding to upgrade identified rural access roads and evacuation routes, as well as other supporting infrastructure that would improve access, connectivity and enhance firefighting capabilities for this region.
“A greater focus on community education and research programs will also help and support property owners and residents understanding of how to develop their own individual resilience strategies.
“There is both an opportunity and an obligation for us all to work together to ensure something positive comes from these disaster events. The commitment has been made by Federal and State Governments and now what the community needs to see is the follow-through action,” Mayor Ludwig said.
Long-term Resilience Strategies:
• Mapping, creation and maintenance of strategic fire trails, breaks, access locations and a better integrated program of mitigation burns (including cool burns and indigenous practices);
• Strategic Economic Recovery and Resilience measures to assist business through the cumulative impact of successive economic shocks from natural disaster;
• Working in partnerships with our neighbours including Australian Defence Force and other local government communities.
• The active participation of ADF reserves in firefighting training at SWBTA and assisting local brigades operationally both when major fires threaten and to implement shire-wide cool burn mitigation programs.
• Assessments on rural and urban properties to create defendable strategies in both rural and urban environments;
• Education programs and workshops to educate fire defence methods;
• Education programs and workshops on vegetation and natural environment management with particular focus on allowing for cool burns to be undertaken while protecting valuable environmental areas.