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Eurobodalla Shire Council submission to NSW Bushfire Inquiry makes no reference to Climate Change

Eurobodalla Shire Council Submission to the NSW Government Inquiry says it is inevitable that bushfires will again be experienced within Eurobodalla in the future. The key recommendations put forward by the Council were: i) the NSW Government should fund, build and maintain the proposed Eurobodalla Regional Integrated Emergency Services Precinct in Moruya as a matter of priority with a purpose- built Emergency Operations Centre ii) the NSW Government review regulation and policy to facilitate improvements to dwellings that were constructed prior to the introduction of bushfire management and construction standards including the introduction of compliant asset protection zones and improvements to the construction standards of the dwelling to make them more resilient. iii) the NSW Government should fund the NSW Rural Fire Service to deliver additional education to assist our community to become increasingly resilient to bushfire events through appropriate building construction, property preparation and bushfire survival planning iv) the NSW Government should provide greater certainty for landowners wishing to establish appropriate asset protection zones to existing dwellings (or rebuilt dwellings lost in these fires) within their own property without the need for expensive environmental studies or biodiversity offsets v) appropriate management of fuel loads in the landscape needs to occur taking a non-tenure approach, coordinated through bushfire risk management plans and committees. This should include a review of potential use and benefits from low intensity burning techniques used historically by the Indigenous communities. vi) The NSW Government should ensure there continues to be a well-resourced and capable emergency response capability in each local area well supported by 2 emergency management structures at a local, regional, State and Australian Government level vii) the NSW Government change the response funding arrangements to ensure Councils are funded for the day labour costs associated with deploying Council staff engaged in the emergency response under Section 44 declarations and other declared emergencies. viii) the NSW and Australian Government change the funding arrangements to ensure Councils are funded for the day labour costs associated with clean-up and rebuilding of transport and other related infrastructure without the need to signup to the proposed new disaster funding arrangements. ix) the NSW Government should review the arrangements for evacuation centres including the training of additional local NSW Government personnel who work within the EOC and evacuation centres. Catering arrangements should also be reviewed. x) NSW Government fund recommended improvements to the resilience and preparedness of Council owned buildings used as evacuation centres xi) critical infrastructure resilience strategies should be identified, funded and implemented for all major infrastructure with additional financial support from the NSW and Australian Governments including: a. telecommunications systems such as towers and associated facilities (which impacts emergency response communications, mobile phone services, ABC and commercial radio, television) b. power supply to the whole of Eurobodalla LGA and to critical infrastructure sites c. the arterial transport network including highways and major regional roads d. water and sewerage systems including additional Government funding for the proposed Eurobodalla Southern Water Storage e. hospitals f. schools g. emergency operations and evacuation centres xii) additional regulations should be implemented to require improved business continuity (in particular alternate power supply) for critical private businesses including: a. all fuel service stations b. major food retailers c. aged care providers In response to the Inquiry Item: The causes of, and factors contributing to, the frequency, intensity, timing and location of bushfires in NSW in the 2019-20 bushfire season, including consideration of any role weather, drought, climate change, fuel loads and human activity. "The Council, in their submission did NOT make any comment around climate change. Instead they said the 2019-20 fires burnt approximately 80% of the Eurobodalla landmass including 90% of National Parks and State Forests with devastating consequences to life, property, community well-being and the economic viability of Eurobodalla businesses. "Detailed information on the weather and soil moisture conditions leading up to and during this event will be made available from the Bureau of Meteorology and RFS to the inquiry. Advice indicates that the three-year period leading into the 2019-20 summer was the driest on record in NSW. The following graphs show the rainfall in 2019 compared to the average rainfall for Batemans Bay and Moruya. This demonstrates the extremely dry winter leading up to and during the fire event. "The inquiry will likely find that the fires impacting the Eurobodalla started from lightning strikes" ****************************** NOTE: On Tuesday 13 August 2019 Eurobodalla councillors resolved that local government requires focussed and strategic actions to address the changing climate, but voted not to declare a climate emergency. Cr Pat McGinlay brought a Notice of Motion to declare a climate emergency to Council’s 13 August meeting. The motion also suggested all future or revised strategies include an assessment of the potential climate change impacts and that council staff provide councillors with a range of options for community engagement in relation to climate change. Cr McGinlay’s motion did not receive sufficient support, however, two replacement amendments brought by Cr Pollock were adopted. The first motion recognised focussed and strategic actions were required by local government to address variable and changing climate, immediately and in the longer term. ***************************** Council offers in their submission: "Research of the information held by the Rural Fire Service will show that severe drought conditions, high night-time temperatures, high winds and very low humidity of less than 10% played a significant role in the extreme fire behaviour over the proceeding night and the morning of New Year’s Eve 2019. In rural areas, expansive cleared agricultural lands and bush also burnt with extreme intensity resulting in the loss of three lives, numerous stock and wildlife, homes, sheds, machinery, fencing and pasture. The remoteness of these areas, the need to direct resources to the areas to support the greatest number of people and the risk to fire fighters, meant that the provision of on-the-ground fire-fighting support in these areas was limited. The decision of these residents to stay and defend their property, sadly cost them their lives." "The extent of bushfire impact on property was closely related to the proximity of the bushland. In Eurobodalla, this bushland environment is more prevalent in the rural landscape. "Where the bushland environment continues through the urban footprint (such as North Rosedale), the fire impacts were higher than other areas. Anecdotally, a greater number of homes lost to the bushfire in the Eurobodalla were constructed prior to the current planning considerations and construction standards related to managing bushfire risk. However more specific research is required to formally examine the specific outcomes in the Eurobodalla and other bushfires in this respect. "For older homes in rural areas, many would have been constructed prior to the introduction of bushfire construction and management standards. The asset protection zone (APZ) may not reflect the lower standard of building construction in relation to bushfire protection. There needs to be a simpler and more cost- effective process to encourage provision of improved APZs on these properties. "In particular, there appears to be a need to relax environmental and biodiversity conservation considerations and controls to allow improved protection to homes without undue cost to the landowner." "These arrangements should also apply to dwellings being rebuilt post the fire. If these changes are not made, the current situation will prevail, which is often cost prohibitive as a result of the environmental and biodiversity conservation assessment and offset requirements. "In addition, the objectives of the relevant legislation and policy related to the protection of biodiversity and the management of bushfire risk are currently in direct conflict. There needs to be a clearer priority given to the management of bushfire risk, once the broader strategic direction is to allow development in certain locations. "This places the need for governments to have a more rigorous and strategic position on biodiversity protection and management at a regional scale and having less of a reliance on site by site assessments through the development assessment process. Linked to this there needs to be greater consideration to mechanisms to support landowners in the management of biodiversity, especially where governments make the decision for the benefit of the broader community that the protection of biodiversity over private lands has a higher value than achieving any development outcome." "There is anecdotal evidence that through ember attack, landscaping adjacent to dwellings may have contributed to their loss. There needs to be an examination of the contributing factor of landscaping in terms of its location and species type. Further there needs to be better information and education of the public around landscaping, management thereof, and general requirements and priorities for bushfire preparedness." You can read the full submission HERE



Above: According to Eurobodalla Council there is no Climate Change and that in fact the weather we have is variable and changing

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