Fire preparedness GAPP Gippsland Fire prevention CFA | November 22, 2017
Bath calls for action on fire preparedness
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath has questioned the Andrews Labor Government on its lack of response to the parliamentary Inquiry into fire season preparedness, finalised in June of this year.
Speaking in parliament recently, Ms Bath highlighted inquiry recommendations regarding the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program (GAPP) and penalties for breaching laws around Total Fire Ban days.
“The Standing Committee on the Environment and Planning Committee’s final report on its Inquiry into fire season preparedness contained a number of findings in relation to arson prevention,” Ms Bath told parliament.
“It included the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program as a positive and valuable example of the community and agencies working together to address significant causes of bushfire and indicated that it should be commended.”
Ms Bath called on Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino to act on two key recommendations from the report.
The first is that the government should: “provide additional support to the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program and support the establishment of arson prevention programs of this type in other bushfire‑prone regions within Victoria, and involve both community and government agencies.”
The report also recommended that the government “introduce an amendment to the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 or other instruments which imposes significant penalties and strengthens enforcement, including via infringement notices, for offences against Total Fire Ban requirements before the 2017‑2018 fire season.”
Speaking this week with temperatures across Victoria consistently in the 30s, Ms Bath said the time for action was now, before the summer period starts.
“Currently, if you light a fire on a Total Fire Ban day, it’s either a warning or the matter has to be taken to court.”
“Lighting a fire on a Total Fire Ban day is too serious an issue for a simple warning letter, but the alternative of having to take every instance detected to court is a drawn-out process which agencies may not have the resources to pursue.”
“An extensive amount of work and resourcing went into this Inquiry and the development of its recommendations. Where is the government’s action on this?”
Maarty Krygsman of the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program also urged the government to act on the recommendations.
“GAPP would welcome any action on the Inquiry’s recommendations, especially given the forecast of an above average fire season,” Mr Krygsman said.
“Lighting fires on Total Fire Ban days puts our communities at risk and more effective deterrents like those recommended are needed to help prevent these reckless acts.”
Ms Bath urged the government to do more than place signs on roadsides.
“Whilst the government is technically allowed six months to respond to the report, the nature of this subject – preventing catastrophic fires – demands action now as we come into the summer months,” Ms Bath concluded.