A report outlining 40 recommendations and opportunities for future firefighting processes has been delivered, with WAFarmers pleased a recommendation has been created as a result of consultation with the organisation, and that a rural firefighting service has been suggested as a course of action.
Premier Colin Barnett released the long-awaited report in Harvey this morning, stating that the current system for managing bushfires was “failing citizens and the government”.
WAFarmers President Tony York said Recommendation Nine was a direct result of consultation between WAFarmers, the State Emergency Management Committee, the Association of Bush Fire Brigades, the Contractors Association of WA and the Forrest Industries Federation of WA.
“We congratulate Mr Euan Ferguson and his team for compiling this report, and we thank all those who made submissions into the enquiry so that an appropriate plan for the future could be determined,” he said.
“We are pleased that our concerns were highlighted in the report, with a recommendation being put forward to establish systems for the voluntary registration of farmer firefighting units, contractor firefighting resources, and forestry industry brigades.
“Through these arrangements, it is anticipated that there will be safer, more efficient and more effective recognition, organisation, deployment, management and coordination of resources when bushfires occur.”
Mr York said that power needed to be given back to the people through a rural firefighting service, especially given 97 per cent of all registered Western Australian firefighters were volunteers.
“While volunteer firefighters make up most of the state’s firefighting effort, the current system does not recognise their skills and the huge amount of experience and knowledge they have with bush firefighting,” he said.
“The establishment of a separate Rural Fire Service would mean there is one dedicated authority to be responsible for fire breaks, firefighting on government land and, perhaps most importantly, mitigation to reduce fuel loads.
“It would also ensure swift action from the trained people on the ground to manage blazes as early as possible, rather than have them wait for back-up.
“While the Special Inquiry stated that the exact form of the service should be a matter for government to determine, WAFarmers hopes that the authority would be entirely separate to DFES and other government authorities.
“This would leave room for DFES to ensure greater collaboration between themselves and other key stakeholders to alleviate concerns about the impact of future blazes, including the improvement of mobile telecommunications services.”
WAFarmers will also be involved in a review of the policy for traffic management at emergency incidents under Recommendation 14.
All media requests to be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Melanie Dunn on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].