The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) has again congratulated the WA State Government for recognising the value of bushfire mitigation with its $15m commitment to a ‘Mitigation Activity Fund’ detailed in a Ministerial press release today.
AVBFB President Dave Gossage said one of the most positive differences between this government and its predecessor is its acceptance of the need for a greater focus on prevention activities.
“We are very pleased that Minister Logan has listened to the research and wisdom from the coal-face regarding the need for more bushfire mitigation,” Mr Gossage said.
“In terms of acknowledging the value of mitigation, this government has already reversed its predecessor’s refusal to accept the fact that it is several times cheaper to mitigate than suppress.”
“We have gone from the ludicrous situation of having former Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson and Minister Joe Francis telling Parliament that DFES was a response-only agency that does not do mitigation, to a government that is keen to raise the issue and fund it.”
Mr Gossage said that while the AVBFB is trying hard to ensure its key message is one of support for this and other turnarounds, it is fearful that the McGowan government might be vulnerable to not taking the time to adequately consult and include bushfire volunteers.
“Again for the record, we are happy with some of the changes already implemented, but the AVBFB is concerned that some decisions seem to have a familiar ‘top-down’ feeling,” Mr Gossage said.
“We tried desperately to explain the opportunities that come with trusting and consulting us to the last government but sadly, ended up having to address the consequences of them not doing so.”
“We read the Minister’s media statement today and again, we are very supportive of the overall content but were a little disappointed it was the first time we had heard about a ‘Mitigation Activity Fund Governance Committee’ that will apparently assess applications for funding and effectiveness.”
“The AVBFB has been working very hard to avoid conflict and build trust with the new regime and is therefore reluctant to raise the issue, but things like this make it hard for us to reassure our State’s 26,000 bushfire volunteers that the Government respects, understands and appreciates them.”
“The AVBFB wants to work with the government. We have explicitly asked to be consulted on more decisions before they are made to ensure better, cheaper and more widely supported outcomes.”
“I appreciate this is probably just a case of the government forgetting to consult in the rush of trying to get things moving quickly. However, it is important to gently remind everyone that the last government’s biggest failure in this space was not consulting or bringing us along on the process which ultimately made volunteers feel like they weren’t valued or respected,” Mr Gossage ended.