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Tathra Bushfires – Keelty Review …

The Beagle Editor, Your readers following the Tathra Fires inquiry might be interested in our media release: Tathra Bushfires – Keelty Review …

Credit must go to Ian Campbell for his excellent review in the RIOT ACT today, detailing the findings of the Keelty Review into the adequacy of the fire services response to the tragic Tathra Bushfires in March.

Indeed, from the reports seen by the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) it would seem that Ian may be one of very few who has bothered to read the report, although others will no doubt plead insanity on the basis that it is so hard to find.

Ian’s report made clear from the outset the limited scope of the review, which the BVSRRA believes will do little to assuage the concerns of many local residents & ratepayers, including those directly affected in Tathra, as to identifying the cause of the wild fires & widespread concerns over the historic failure to pursue adequate hazard-reduction activities in bushfire prone areas.

While the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association submission to the Keelty Review focused very strongly on the need for a more stringent approach to hazard reduction, as well as the need for proper oversight to ensure that hazard reduction objectives were met, the review diligently ignored questions as to the cause of the fires, their scale, intensity, impact & related factors.

While reviews such as that undertaken by Keelty on behalf of the NSW Government will always attract the attention of those concerned with internecine battles between various bureaucratic agencies, their findings usually offer little in the way of real surprises, which would doubtless help explain why the findings & recommendations of the majority of inquiries & investigations simply wind-up taking-up space on office shelves, while the underlying problems & issues are quickly forgotten.

But that is surely the way of government & politicians, so we shouldn’t be surprised if, having adopted the recommendations of the Keelty Review, the NSW Government does little to follow-through on its recommendations. As Keelty himself observed, the Australian landscape is littered with the reports of investigations, commissions of inquiry, Royal Commissions, Ministerial Inquiries, tribunals, committees, most of which have failed to deliver real change.

In December, 2017, the Institute for Government (IFG) in the UK released a report examining the effectiveness of government inquiries & how they might lead to change.

The report found that there have been 68 inquiries since 1990 & that they had cost in excess of half a billion pounds to conduct. The report also found that there is an expectation that inquiries will answer at least three questions:

• What happened?

• Who is responsible?

• What can we learn from this?

The IFG report went on to find that “there is no routine procedure for holding the Government to account for promises made in the aftermath of inquiries, the implementation of recommendations is patchy, in some cases repeat incidents have occurred & there is no system for allowing inquiries to build on the learning of their predecessors.”

Unfortunately, while it was obviously never the intention of the Keelty Report to address precise questions of “what happened” & “who was responsible”, the fact that these fundamental questions remain unanswered will continue to be a source of ongoing concern to the community.

The BVSRRA believes that unless the cause of the Tathra Bushfires & the adequacy of historic hazard reduction programs are fully & publicly examined, then there will be no compelling expectation that steps will be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

Fortunately, the BVSRRA understands that there is a Coroner’s Inquiry underway into the fires, which should address those issues & the very real concerns of the local community that meaningful steps to prevent a reoccurrence of the tragedy will be taken.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Opinion #Bega

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