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Presentation : Janelle Day presenting on behalf of Our Towns Our Say (OTOS) February 4th 2020

Janelle Day presenting on behalf of Our Towns Our Say (OTOS)

Public Meeting on Bushfires

Councillors, firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respect to elders past and present.

Many of you may be aware that Our Towns Our Say (OTOS) hosted a public meeting on Saturday 1 February at the Tomakin Sports and Social Club. There were over fifty participants who came together to share personal stories and ideas to inform Council deliberations on the bushfires as we continue to manage this ongoing crisis and in any long-term planning.

A list of comments and suggestions is attached to the hard copy of this address so I will only enlarge on a few.

Communication

For many, this was a highly problematic area with far too much reliance on power and telecommunications. When these went down there were no viable alternatives. There were questions raised as to whether the currently available towers have the capacity to support communication needs in a crisis such as we are experiencing.

A need was seen for regular updates from a central command with reliable notifications - radio and TV releases were often not up to date resulting at times in confusion and a lack of confidence in the information being received.

Inconsistencies in communication were also mentioned. We heard stories of some households being visited with evacuation alerts while others in the same street were not.

Much of the RFS information, while valued, was viewed as quite generalised and community members would have preferred more specific and timely details as to fire locations.

In a time of crisis, we depend on accurate, timely and reliable communication.

Crisis Support/Recovery Support

The meeting acknowledged the efforts of all those who worked to save lives and property and those who are providing ongoing care and support.

To aid in recovery, community members would like to see a range of officers appointed/employed to carry out specific tasks. These include: an independent coordinator to oversee the reconstruction period; an Aboriginal Liaison Officer and a designated recovery officer to manage other issues related to the fires.

Further benefit to community could be gained from:

· waiving legislation to allow residents to place and use caravans/tents on their own land during rebuilds;

· waiving of excess water bills for periods during and post fires given that many of these will be a result of fighting fires on their own and others’ properties;

· waiving of rates on houses to be rebuilt as a result of bushfires;

· placing a moratorium on tip fees for bushfire related disposal in addition to the current dispensations, and

· elimination of Council DA charges for fire related rebuilds.

Ongoing addressing of both physical and mental health issues arising from the fires was strongly emphasised and seen as a priority.

Economic Recovery

The meeting saw the need to develop an economic stimulus package for local businesses. From the shared stories it was obvious that many local businesses are suffering, and recovery would need careful planning involving Council and all stakeholders and the possibility of financial support.

Evacuation/Sites

A need was seen to review all evacuation and safer sites to ensure they are fit for purpose and provide a safe, clean and accessible haven. Minimum requirements expressed included:

· Clear and unhindered evacuation routes and paths;

· Ease of access for the elderly and those with special needs;

· Provision of adequate toilets and potable water; and

· Availability for opening at the times advertised.

Future Planning and Risk Minimisation

Many believed that the first step was for Council to declare a “State of Climate Emergency” and for any future planning to be conducted within this context. Development and communication of bushfire and emergency plans were a priority for the group.

Hazard reduction on private and public land, controlled burning and cleared zones were viewed as important risk minimisation strategies and it was felt that these are sometimes hindered by the application process and response time.

The work undertaken by our fire fighters was valued but the group felt that the provision of satellite phones and frequent replacement of equipment so that it remained ‘fire ready’ would make their job easier.

Animal Welfare

Several suggestions were raised in relation to animal welfare. These included:

· earlier warning to enable movement of animals to safety;

· clearly identified safe sites for animals;

· provision of feed and water;

· provision of Vet care; and an

· after fire care plan.

Partnerships

The meeting saw a role for Council in lobbying State and Federal Governments to increase funding to the National Parks and Wildlife Service so that fire-safe strategies can be implemented. Budget cuts to this service of $121 million in 2011 and $80 million in 2017 coupled with a 25% reduction in the number of rangers have hindered good fire management in our parks. This directly impacts on the tourism that is so important to our area.

In Conclusion

We have all been impacted by the fires. Working together and having our voices heard will be an important part of our healing as a community.

ATTACHMENT 1

Our Towns Our Say

Public Meeting

Tomakin Sports and Social Club

February 1, 2002

IDENTIFIED PRIORITIES

Communication

Far too much reliance on power and telecommunications

How do we communicate without power, phones and internet

Provision of physical information boards in community places

Particularly dire when ABC went down

Need for regular updates from central command, reliable and timely notifications – radio/TV releases often not up to date

RFS information was too generalised – more detail on location required

Bushfire communication at all levels/agencies be reviewed

Clear communication needed re the access and range of available grants and other payments

Evacuation points need to be clearly defined and signposted

Evacuation orders should be issued to all impacted households

Council to lobby for the data and voice communications back up required for emergencies e.g. ATM, EFTPOS and radio

Clearly articulated process and locations for the disposal of fire related debris

Clear articulation and dissemination of rules for block clearing

Creation and dissemination of a check list for things to do before evacuating

Ensure available towers support communication needs

Council staff available at all times during crisis a must

Development of an email register to update those impacted by fires

Availability of battery-operated transistors

Education to better prepare community/council for evacuation systems/facilities

Crisis Support/Recovery Support

That local businesses be given permission to give away produce instead of disposing as landfill

Council to employ an independent coordinator to oversee the reconstruction period

Change/waive legislation to allow residents to put and use caravans/tents on own land during rebuilds

There is a need to provide current information about location and means of accessing donated items

Appointment of an Aboriginal Liaison Officer

Council waive excess water bills for a period during and post fires (section 44)

Council waive rates on houses to be rebuilt as a result of bushfires

Ongoing addressing of both physical and mental health issues

Council should appoint a designated recovery officer to manage issues related to fire

Removal/planting of trees that are fire risks be regulated in urban areas

More personnel to facilitate evacuations

Moratorium on tip fees for bushfire related disposal (weighbridge not required)

More generators and fuel to be made available

Elimination of Council DA charges for fire related rebuilds

Economic Recovery

Develop an economic stimulus package for local businesses

Evacuation/Sites

Clear and unhindered evacuation routes and paths

Ensure ease of access to evacuation and recovery sites for people with special needs

Provision of adequate toilets and water facilities at evacuation point

Evacuation centres need to be open at the times advertised

Future Planning and Risk Minimisation

Controlled burning necessary to minimise risks and reduce fuel load

Declare a State of Climate Emergency

Small regional fire stations should be fully equipped

Hazard reduction – dense vegetation hindered access

Ensure developers keep their blocks cleared

Provision of funding to the Indigenous Communities for controlled burning

Review of community safe place to ascertain suitability for purpose

Tip fees are a deterrent for pre-fire green waste clean-up

Simplify approval process for reduction burns

That a detailed bushfire plan be developed for our community with the appointment of a person to assist with public queries

Establish community fire units

Allow more tree removal around properties with easier and faster approval process

Ensure Council keeps their land and 10/50 Crown Land cleared

Develop a Bushfire Prevention Plan to reduce likelihood of repetition of current crisis

Council ensure homeowners/absentee homeowners/landlords clean up tenanted properties, weekenders – gutters, tree debris, gardens

Provide local SES with satellite phones

Council to ensure residential maps are up to date, particularly for new areas

Development of up to date emergency plan

Review provision of power during crisis to ensure continuity

Establishment of safety zones to protect public assets

Frequent turnover of firefighting equipment to ensure reliability

RFS recruitment strategies to further encourage younger members

That green waste be collected weekly

All holiday parks have generators as a mandated requirement

Buffer zones of a minimum of 100m be established on both sides of all forested roads

Use of non-combustible or underground poles/wires

Animal Welfare

Earlier warning to enable movement of animals to safety

Clearly identified safe sites for animals

Provision of feed and water

Provision of Vet care

After fire care plan

Partnerships

Council to lobby State and Federal Governments to increase funding to National Parks and Wildlife Services so that fire safe strategies can be implemented

Encourage cooperation between states when publishing fire information

General

Several groups expressed a lack of confidence in the Council and council practices

Subsidise batteries for storing solar power

Concerns about the capacity of the Shire’s tips

People to collect gas bottles during bushfire emergencies

Dob in people using hoses during Stage 4 Water Restrictions

Regulate septic systems to ensure they are fire safe

While some businesses were selling items at reduced or cost prices, it was believed that others were inflating prices

ADF, where were they…too late and too much red tape

Serviceable road access lacking – this restricted movement of emergency services

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