Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie has backed a concept from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements report that encourages the Federal Government to take some pressure off state and territory counterparts in the heat of an emergency.
The report recommends the Federal Government issue public declarations in relation to the seriousness of a natural disaster, activate agencies to support states and territories in emergency response and recovery, and have the power to take action without the request for assistance from a state or territory in 'clearly defined and limited circumstances'.
Dr Gillespie said the Federal Government was happy to take on some responsibility.
"The inquiry has established what we knew before which is most of the (units) of government that do the (emergency) response are state governments, but the Federal Government is very keen to help," Dr Gillespie said.
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The report, which was handed to the Governor-General in October following the horrific 2019-20 bushfire season, provided 80 recommendations about how natural disasters could be managed better in future.
During the bushfire season there were three states of emergency declared in NSW, each lasting about one week.
Given the severity of the fires on the Mid Coast, a localised state of emergency (commonly known as a section 44 declaration) was deployed by then Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons for 88 days.
"It was the bushfire season from hell, just huge devastation," Dr Gillespie said.
The report outlined the opportunity for the federal, state and territory governments to review legislation and processes in relation to vegetation management, bushfire mitigation and hazard reduction.
Several sections of the report relate to the importance of vegetation management.
The Royal Commission was told by local governments that communities were impacted by road closures. Effective roadside vegetation management could help prevent blockages to roads, caused by burning or fallen trees, in future fire emergencies.
Local governments are also called on to work with state governments and emergency agencies to ensure appropriate arrangements are made for roadside vegetation management while considering access, road priority, cost and risk to natural disasters.
The report acknowledges the existence of climate change and how it has caused extreme weather to be more frequent and intense.
It was the bushfire season from hell, just huge devastation.Dr David Gillespie
Given this acknowledgement, the commitment to vegetation management becomes extremely important.
The report states the Federal Government can focus on adaptation and impact strategies in relation to climate change and its role in natural disasters.
Dr Gillespie highlighted the significance of cultural burning practices. The report recommends all governments talk with Indigenous communities about how their practices can help with future natural disasters.
Regular hazard reduction burns are also a must.
"We've got to learn to manage our fire risk by doing regular hazard reduction burning on a large scale, not every 15 to 20 years," Dr Gillespie said.
"When you don't have annual hazard reduction burning during the cooler times you get a bushfire."
All governments are encouraged to provide clarity for land managers for how and when hazard reduction activities can be undertaken.
Dr Gillespie said there had been strong financial support for communities from the federal and state governments in the wake of the fires.
He highlighted numerous local roads and community infrastructure projects that would be funded through the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, such as the upgrade to Saxby's Stadium in Taree, as examples of this.
It's all part of getting the economy moving again and those impacted by the bushfires back into the workforce.
"We want to get people back out from 'under the doona' back into work," Dr Gillespie said.
"People are picking up and a lot of job agencies can't get people to work and fill the jobs."
Alluding to the damage to homes, loss of income and emotional trauma caused by the bushfires, Dr Gillespie said "the Manning and Great Lakes are strong communities and are bouncing back."
"The scars are there but they are healing," he said.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission will now be reviewed by the Federal Government.
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