Last week’s findings from the NSW Bushfire Inquiry Final Report have been welcomed by NSW local government’s peak body, which says councils are acutely aware of the need for much greater investment to protect lives and property from future disasters.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said councils had experienced bushfires on an unprecedented scale in the summer of 2019-20, with 50 of the State’s 128 councils subject of natural disaster declarations.
“Local government welcomes the findings of this week’s report, and many of them are consistent with the recommendations in LGNSW’s submission to the inquiry,” Cr Scott said.
“Local government is at the heart of the planning for and management of every emergency – in fact many mayors, councillors and council staff are also volunteer firefighters.
“Councils have long recognised the need for vast improvements in the way we prepare for, respond to and strengthen resilience to bushfires
“The 2019-20 bushfire disaster brought that home to us all and it is pleasing to see the NSW Government accepted all 76 recommendations in principle. Hopefully it is the catalyst for major change going forward.”
Cr Scott said much greater investment was needed to increase capacity to protect communities, properties and lives from events like last summer’s devastating fires, which many communities were still struggling to recover from.
LGNSW supported the inquiry’s recommendations in principle and would be closely examining the detail behind each of the them to see how councils could support their implementation.
“Changing climate conditions are widely expected to result in more frequent and severe bush fire events,” Cr Scott said.
“The pressing need is increased investment in firefighting equipment and climate adaptation and mitigation activities, hazard reduction, staffing and strengthening the resilience of critical infrastructure.
“While these measures are strongly supported, this presents major budgetary challenges that cannot be met equitably or sustainably under the existing NSW emergency services funding arrangements.
“It’s disappointing the report does not address this fundamental problem.
“We look forward to further discussions with the NSW Government on this issue, including how we can continue to work together to plan, fund, and resource the work of councils to not only manage their communities’ capacity to recover and rebuild from disasters but also build future resilience.”
Cr Scott said report authors, former NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens and Professor Mary O’Kane, were to be commended for their comprehensive and inclusive inquiry
A full copy of the inquiry’s report is available here.