The government has sought to mitigate tensions around where its promised Bushfire Centre of Excellence (BCoE) will be built by calling for tenders from Local Governments.
Regular readers will know that Shadow Emergency Services Minister Hon Dr Steve Thomas MLC asked this Question Without Notice in Parliament on 17 May regarding how United Firefighters Union State Secretary Lea Anderson seemed to know that the BCoE was to be built in the Shire of Mundaring. Environment Minister Hon Stephen Dawson representing the Emergency Services Minister Hon Fran Logan MLA responded concisely:
The minister has requested the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to develop a business case and project definition plan for the Bushfire Centre of Excellence, including options for its location. Once complete, this will be taken to cabinet for consideration.
We are aware that a number of Local Governments and Members of Parliament – including Minister for Volunteers, Hon Mick Murray (also the Member for Collie) – expressed strong concern that the approach being taken was more of a ‘top-down” process than an open, widely consultative one more in line with the recommendations of the Ferguson Report.
Evidently, there was enough concern raised to justify a re-think and we commend the government for acknowledging the importance of wide and open input into big decisions by calling for Local Governments to tender to build the facility.
The AVBFB supports the concept of the Bushfire Centre of Excellence and sincerely hopes its progression from this point continues with maximum consultation and inclusion of the peak body for WA’s incredible bush fire volunteers.
Below are some of the details of the Tender for our members’ interest.
Tender number DFESRFP179518 Bushfire Centre of Excellence says DFES seeks to:
Acquire a suitable parcel of land (or an existing facility) from a local government; and
Have that local government build (possibly through an outsourced construction company) a new facility (or refurbish an existing facility) to DFES specifications, for the purposes of hosting the new Bushfire Centre of Excellence (BCoE). The establishment of the BCoE was a key recommendation of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire (Ferguson Inquiry).
The BCoE aims to improve rural fire management outcomes through leadership, collaboration and innovation across the sector. The initial and primary focus of the BCoE is to enhance the coordination and delivery of rural fire management training in Western Australia.
The document names “Principles” of the future BCoE that include:
Reflect and serve the whole of the rural fire management sector – state agencies, local governments, organisations, volunteers and communities;
Recognise excellence in rural fire management where it exists, irrespective of agency, organisation or affiliation;
Be decentralised in its delivery of training programs and other services to the extent possible, to promote adaptability, accessibility and local relevance;
The AVBFB is heartened but wary about this paragraph:
The BCoE will provide a ‘sense of belonging’ to volunteers and the broader bushfire community. It will also afford career firefighters with enhanced training in bushfire management, hazard reduction burning, and bushfire behaviour. The BCoE will eventually include a networked capability for research, planned burning, lessons learned and facilitating training for rural firefighters, especially for members of volunteer Brigades.
The Tender continues with more detail, specifying that the BCoE should be located:
- inside the area bound by Northampton to the north, Ravensthorpe to the south and west to the coast and within 60km by road to Albany, Bunbury, Busselton, Geraldton or Mandurah
- in Northam, Collie, Katanning, Morawa, Jurien Bay, Boddington, Manjimup or Margaret River
- in the “Perth metropolitan area but having an existing or ongoing rural-urban interface”
The Tender states the facility may be an existing building or proposed new one on a minimum of 4ha of land as well as being close to suitable sites for prescribed burning training, accommodation providers, catering providers and an airport.
The primary requirement of the design of the facility is described as:
Facilitate an integrated service provision across delivering training, coordinating research and administration to ensure that bushfire management is not considered in isolation, but also considers other, potentially conflicting ecological and environmental land management and legislative objectives and requirements
And include office space for up to 25 employees, training rooms suitable for up to 30 people each, a lunchroom and an alfresco seating area.