Council welcomes expert-led Bushfire and Climate Plan

fires Photo: Elaine Raines

Following devastating bushfires in the region last summer, Central Coast Council has welcomed a new Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan put out last month by a coalition of 33 former fire and emergency chiefs.

The Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, which includes former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner, Greg Mullins, as well as experts from the ACT, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, has made 165 recommendations for more effective bushfire readiness, response, and recovery.

Developed with more than 150 experts and affected community members, the plan is the outcome of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit 2020.

Priority points listed in the Plan include the need for the Federal Government to address the root cause of the climate crisis and worsening bushfires through a national commitment to net zero emissions.

The plan calls for the strengthening of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets, and the managed phase-out of all fossil fuels.

It says Federal, State and Territory Governments should adequately resource emergency services and increase funding for bushfire risk mitigation and firefighting.

There should be more money for volunteer recruitment, training and retention programs and a consistent national approach to sharing information and warnings on fires and other hazards, the Plan says.

It also calls for permanent community resilience hubs in every local government area in vulnerable parts of the country and a new federal law providing a clear role and accountability for the Federal Government before, during and following a major disaster, including triggers for when it is required to assist State and Territory governments.

Other key recommendations include: the development of a National Security Strategy and an expansion of research into climate change and bushfires; a more integrated and long-term approach to landscape management and hazard reduction; the development of an Indigenous-led National Cultural Fire Strategy; the development of a program for mental wellbeing in the face of climate change, including greater mental health support for firefighters and other emergency responders; enabling a community-led approach to disaster risk reduction and disaster recovery efforts, streamlined disaster recovery payment processes; increasing the affordability and uptake of insurance for properties in disaster prone areas; better coordination and resourcing of wildlife recovery efforts; and a review of Australian standards on building in bushfire prone areas.

A spokesperson said Council would review the recommendations and consider how it can apply any that fall within its area of responsibility.

“As always, we continue to work closely with the Rural Fire Service, other fire agencies and land managers to manage bush fire risk on the Central Coast,” the spokesperson said.

“Council constantly reviews its bush fire program as part of continuous improvement.

“The Bush Fire Management Committee has submitted the revised draft Risk Management Plan to RFS HQ for validation of new treatments, and we are finalising the Fire Access & Fire Trails Plan so the fire trail network is prioritised for upgrade works.”

Council maintains more than 220 fire trails totalling approximately 260km in length and 260 Asset Protection Zones with a total length of approximately 55km and undertakes multiple planned hazard reduction burns in coordination with its Bush Fire Management Committee partners each year, the spokesperson said.

Terry Collins