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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Towns Our Say
Tomakin Sports and Social Club
February 1, 2002
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
Develop an economic stimulus package for local businesses
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
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
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
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