Bushfire Royal Commission report lacks vision

MEDIA RELEASE
Friday 30 October 

Underwhelming Bushfire Royal Commission report lacks vision needed to address Australia’s bushfire woes 

The Bushfire Royal Commission’s final report is totally underwhelming and fails to address the current imbalance between fire prevention and fire response says the Institute of Foresters (IFA/AFG), the professional association representing some 1,000 forest scientists, researchers and professional forest managers in Australia. 

Chair of the IFA/AFG Forest Fire Management Committee Gary Morgan AM AFSM (Australian Fire Service Medal) warned that all governments needed to place a greater emphasis on prevention if continual future repeats of the Black Summer disaster were to be avoided.

“Australia needs a better balance of prevention against response and the Royal Commission does not achieve this vision,” Mr Morgan said. 

“We are calling for all levels of government to place a greater focus on land management and investment in bushfire prevention activities and research. 

“While we’re pleased the Royal Commission recognised the importance of bushfire hazard reduction measures including prescribed burning, it’s essential a much greater focus is given to this area.

“Reduced wildfire intensity is a good way to help biodiversity cope with Climate Change impacts. Changing the state of fuel across the landscape, in a way that sustains biodiversity, also reduces the severity of wildfires, so it’s a win-win for longer-term management of the environment. 

“However, to achieve this balance requires well-trained and locally knowledgeable land managers such as forest scientists and professional forest managers who possess the right education, tools, and know-how and interact with the land all year round. 

“Indigenous Australians have held this knowledge for at least 60,000 years and it’s encouraging the report recommends the need to work with them to reintroduce large scale landscape fire management regimes. 

“We believe that Traditional Owners forest fire management practices should be fostered and re-introduced where possible, complementing existing prescribed burning programs but not replacing them.” 

Mr Morgan said additional aircraft capability, as recommended by the Royal Commission, did not offer the solution to Australia’s fire emergency problem. 

“We fail to understand why the Royal Commission recommended a sovereign aerial firefighting capability. Globally we see greater use of very large aircraft in fire suppression. They look wonderful on the television but are not always cost effective,” Mr Morgan said. 

“Aircraft are important in fire suppression as well as for intelligence gathering and transport, however more larger fire suppression aircraft is not the answer. To be effective, aircraft need trained forest firefighters on the ground. Ground based resources need more access via roads and tracks, particularly in remote areas. 

“Additional funding should be directed towards good land management and better fire detection, rather than simply increasing emergency response. Further consideration and research into the cost effectiveness of firebombing aircraft, especially the LATs and VLATs, is required.” 

IFA/AFG President Bob Gordon said despite the report’s shortcomings, it was encouraging that the structure and processes of the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee (ANZEMC) were found by the Royal Commission to be not appropriate for the new advisory body. 

“The IFA/AFG strongly supports recommendation 3.1 stating Australian, state and territory governments should restructure and reinvigorate ministerial forums with a view to enabling timely and informed strategic decision making,” Mr Gordon said. 

“We suggest that their first task should be assessing the national progression towards achieving the 14 COAG agreed goals documented in the National Bushfire Management policy statement for forests and rangelands. 

“The past arrangements failed as they didn’t adequately involve land managers, particularly like the IFA/AFG members who are experienced and skilled in managing fire. 

“To fail to do so again would lead to the same disasters as experienced during the summer of 2019/20.” 

ENDS 

Media contact:
David Abbott Font PR
0400 446 736

To read Royal Commission’s report, click HERE