THE State government has committed to a second Bushfire Mitigation Summit next year, after key representatives from across WA gathered for the first time in Mandurah last week to discuss bushfire risk management.
Approximately 70 representatives from government agencies to volunteer associations and advocacy groups attended the invitation-only Bushfire Mitigation Summit last Friday.
WA Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said the election-promised event provided an opportunity for experts on bushfire mitigation to gather in the same room and gain direction.
“Getting those people in the same room, many for the first time, to be able to sit down and really go through the issues was invaluable,” Mr Logan said.
“The summit also demonstrated how complex the task is with many of the issues falling under a range of government portfolios, including local government, environment, regional development, planning, lands and police.”
Mr Logan said a range of issues were discussed including the establishment of a rural fire service as recommended in the Ferguson Inquiry following the 2016 Waroona-Yarloop bushfire.
Recommendation 15 of the Ferguson Inquiry suggested a rural fire service be established as a separate entity of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), or alternatively be established as a sub-department of DFES.
Mr Logan said he believed the general consensus of those at the summit was that a rural fire service should be formed as part of DFES.
“There was a number of options put forward but the larger number of proposals that were put forward were that a rural fire operation should emerge from within the Department of Fire and Emergency Services itself, not the creation of another stand alone bureaucracy,” he said.
“The reason why that came up time and time again from various people was because it related back to the issue of communications and working together.”
Mr Logan said improvements in communications were a necessity, and the introduction of a stand-alone rural fire service may complicate various agency relationships.
“At a time when one of the big issues is various government agencies and local government working closely together, why would you then create another standalone silo that you have to deal with?” he said.
“I’m still open on the whole thing, I’ve told people that you put your options up, we’ll put those options together as various propositions and take them forward and that’s what we’ve done.”
The minister said he would continue consultation on the issue of a rural fire service with key stakeholders and hoped to have a proposition to take to cabinet before the next bushfire season.
“I’d like to come out with a concept of what it (rural fire service) might look like before the next bushfire season.
“It won’t be implemented because we literally just won’t have time but I’d like to have at least a proposition out there before the next bushfire season.
“If we go down that path it’s a very big change and it will take really years to roll out across WA.
“The initial structure might be up in a year or so but the full implementation might take years.”
Mr Logan said by running a similar summit next year, key stakeholders would be able to gauge the government’s progress and direction.
“I did make a commitment that we should meet again in a year’s time and have a report back – there definitely will be changes that have been made.
“It will be a similar structured meeting as a report back to those people who attended this summit, I think that’s a fair and right thing to do and I think it allows this conversation to continue on.”
“The reason why it was an invite only was to ensure that we invited those people who clearly have a direct interest in the issue of bushfire mitigation.
“All those people in the room were really experts in their field and that really came through in the day – I was superbly impressed by peoples’ knowledge about everything – from bush fire mitigation to fighting bush fires.
“By having it as an invite only it meant those people who had a direct interest could have an open and frank discussion in front of everybody without the glare of either the media or other people who are interested in the whole subject and who may well be involved in the subject, but would have just wanted to come along and just express a point of view.”
Public submissions are open until Sunday, July 9, 2017.