What did some of the stakeholders have to say after attending the Bushfire Mitigation Summit held in Mandurah recently.
Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades of WA president Dave Gossage.
Mr Gossage said all stakeholders at the summit worked co-operatively to discuss major issues surrounding bushfire mitigation, but there was no clear outcomes.
“I’d say it was a very calm atmosphere on the day but there was certainly a number of people that came to me as they left and said they came in confused and were leaving even more confused.
“One thing that was very clear is there needs to be clear separation between the State agency and the bushfire service as such, because it’s just failing WA repeatedly and the culture is so entrenched that the volunteers don’t have a meaningful voice anymore.
Mr Gossage said he would meet with Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan in the coming weeks.
“We met with the minister when he first came into power about mitigation but we said to him we need to come back to you to talk about the rural fire service side of things, so we need to do that still.
“What we need to do is to look at the Ferguson report, people are done to death with these inquiries over the past decade.
“The message that I heard yet again was we don’t need any more consultation or summits.
“We need action in the context of building community capacity, we can drag things out for years having summits and more consultation – all that does is water down the very good recommendations of things that need to happen.
Mr Gossage said he did not believe a rural fire service would complicate communication between agencies or create more red tape.
“A lot of people think there’s more bureaucracy but there’s actually not because all of the functions that DFES are currently doing in the bushfire space now, they won’t be doing under the new structure, so a lot of their functions that they’re doing now they won’t have to do anymore so those jobs can disappear.”
The National Party of WA Agricultural Region MP Colin de Grussa.
“I think the content was probably reasonable, it covered the areas around mitigation and how can we improve it and did talk a little bit about how to find a way I guess about how to improve the relationship between the volunteer service and the professional service,” Mr de Grussa said.
“There was overwhelming acknowledgement that the knowledge that our volunteers have isn’t being utilised well enough so that was positive.”
He suggested further summits in the regions.
“I think whilst the summit itself had the potential to be very good, it’s only going to be very good if it’s taken to other parts of WA.
“You need to hold a version of this in Esperance, you need to hold a version of this in the Wheatbelt, in the South West and up north, I don’t think government will get the right perspective unless they do.
He said he believed the majority of those in attendance were primarily concerned with avoiding excess bureaucracy.
“I would have said that most, not a majority but most would have said something along the lines that we can see a need for this, but what form it takes is the question.
“There was a great deal of concern that it could add another layer of bureaucracy and that was a real concern for those in the room, but they did agree that their needed to be something specific for rural fire fighting.”
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party WA Agricultural Region MP Rick Mazza.
“What I got from it was probably two main points, there was a lot of agreement surrounding prescribed burning and the need for prescribed burning and the break up of that prescribed burning around assets,” Mr Mazza said.
“Fuel reduction was a big issue, obviously mitigation is better than having to engage a fire.
“The second thing that I got out of it listening to most of the responses from the tables that spoke on the issues was that there was need for a separate rural fire service consistent with Ferguson report.
Mr Mazza believed establishing a rural fire service was a key recommendation of the Ferguson Inquiry that should not be ignored.
“I support a rural fire service, in my mind we’ve had three expert inquiries and it’s no good having those inquiries and having recommendations if the government doesn’t implement them and the Ferguson report was quite clear that there should be a separate rural fire service.”
Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Ken Baston.
Mr Baston said the meeting was a positive event which highlighted several issues.
He said information presented indicated a clear disconnect between volunteer fire fighters and government agencies.
“The main issues that I was getting was very much that there needs to be a better connection between the volunteers and the paid fire fighters,” Mr Baston said.
“There’s the necessity for training, there’s the necessity for using and developing more science into fire itself that can apply from the Kimberley right through to Esperance in the State because the terrain is different and the methods of dealing with those hazards of fire in those areas certainly varies.”
Mr Baston said the Ferguson Inquiry should be used as a guide.
“I got the general feeling that there was a necessity for a rural fire service, I think that direction was certainly being voiced loud and clear.
“Whether the funds are there, we haven’t had a new budget come down yet but when that comes down I would expect to see some funding for whatever direction it’s going to go.”