A State Parliamentary Committee report on a Queensland Auditor’s investigation into bushfire preparedness has revealed that identifying bushfire risk and mitigation efforts need to improve.
Member for Gympie, Tony Perrett, said that communities are vulnerable to higher levels of risk than they need to be.
This week the Parliament finalised debate on the Examination of Queensland Audit Office report 5: 2018-2019: Follow up of bushfire prevention and preparedness.
The QAO investigated the progress of recommendations it made to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) in 2014-2015.
“The message is that while we fritter away with specious claims of climate change it leaves us unprepared and at risk,” Mr Perrett said.
“In 2014 the QAO found that mitigation programs were losing out to response programs.
“Among its recommendations were that more work had to done on mitigation efforts, managing fuel loads, and hazard reduction burns.
“When it revisited those recommendations, it found the QFES should continue to engage with land managers and local governments to better identify bushfire risks and prioritise mitigation activities,” he said.
Speaking on the report Mr Perrett said despite the government being told that fuel loads are an underlying problem it has twice refused to support inquiries into them.
“In late 2018 it blocked an open and transparent inquiry,” Mr Perrett said.
“Last year it again blocked an inquiry.
“The government has repeatedly been warned about managing fuel loads.
“It was warned when it removed stock grazing permits and when it made back-burning and effective vegetation management more difficult.
“Arguments about a narrowing window to conduct land management practices are misleading when landholders are not allowed to responsibly manage their land.
Mr Perrett also called on the government to look at management of state-controlled land citing a dramatic drop in burns by the QFES.
“The IGEM report shows there has been an 83% reduction in overall prevention activities.
“This includes a 75% reduction in completed hazard reduction burns, 82% in completed fire breaks, and 88% in community education activities.
“This problem has not suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
“RFBAQ’s GM Justin Choveaux told the Gympie Times that it has “……built up over the past 10-15 years. Parks have been run down over many years.”
“He said that without appropriate land management rural brigades had to fight “….
prolonged fires on state land where the state has limited or no firefighting capacity due to budget constraints. Many brigades also believe Rural Firies and QFES are being used as a source of free labour by some departments to manage their fire risks.” “Simply locking away the land doesn’t prevent and prepare for bushfires.
“At considerable expense and at no cost to the state farmers and landholders can help prevent catastrophic bushfires if they can efficiently manage their land.
“Responsible and effective bushfire prevention and preparedness means practical and workable measures, not political ones,” he said.