State News

Bushfire inquiry report hits the mark but misses some key points 

The Nature Conservation Council broadly supports the findings and recommendations of the  Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and commends the NSW Government for committing to implementing its 76 recommendations. [1]

“This report is a major contribution to our understanding of the causes and impacts of the Black Summer bushfires and the government deserves credit for wholeheartedly embracing the inquiry’s recommendations,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“We commend the commissioners for their work and the Premier for commissioning a practical report. We urge the government to ensure the next state budget fully funds the swift implementation of all 76 recommendations. 

“However, the inquiry has overlooked the need for bushfire risk management plans to give greater value to the protection of environmental assets, such as threatened species and rainforests, and outline measures to protect these priceless assets.

“These fires demonstrated the need for fire planners to value and protect environmental assets like koala forest habitat in the same way they do houses and other infrastructure.

“Under the current arrangements, old sheds and derelict houses receive more protection than environmental or cultural assets in an active fire situation.

“The protection strategy that was developed and deployed for the Wollemi Pine during the fires showed what can be done.”

Mr Gambian also said the report should have recommended providing special protection for wildlife refuges after major fire events.

“Unburnt patches of forest are critical for wildlife that have fled fires and should be protected at all costs,” he said.

“Under current arrangements they have no special status. That’s why logging in state forests has continued in unburnt forests even in regions where more than 80% of the forest burned.

“We agree with the recommendation that vegetation clearing policies be clear, but any new land clearing rules must meet existing environmental standards in NSW Rural Fire Service Codes.

The inquiry praised the work of the Hotspots program, which is a partnership between the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Nature Conservation Council.

Hotspots is a community engagement program that aims to give landholders the knowledge and skills to develop fire management plans and conduct burns that reduce the risk of bushfire damaging their property, while also enhancing wildlife habitat 

“We are proud of the contribution we have made to bushfire management in NSW over several decades and look forward to continuing to work with the NSW Rural Fire Service to help more landholders minimise their fire risk and to enhance wildlife habitat,” Mr Gambian said.

 

References

[1] Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, 31 July, 2020 

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