Captain Matthew Gray and his team from the Kangaroo Valley Community Busshfire Committee have completed a comprehensive submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry.
The KVCBC is a community based organisation made up of residents from Kangaroo Valley and was formed in September 2018 following a meeting called by the then Brigade Captain and a local police officer.
The submission focuses on Items 2 and 5 of the Terms of Reference:
Item 2. The preparation and planning by agencies, government, other entities and the community for bushfires in NSW, including current laws, practices and strategies and building standards and their applications and effect.
Item 5. Preparation and planning for future bushfire threats and risks.
The executive summary highlights the submission content:
Planning for bushfire
KVCBC seeks to highlight deficiencies within NSW bushfire risk management planning where plans lack location-specific detail or defined actions to be carried out. Other planning shortcomings can be found in planning for the protection of critical infrastructure including backup power supply and Static Water Supply and risk assessment for roads and bridges. In Kangaroo Valley, there is an absence of bushfire planning for predominant sectors such as the dairy industry, outdoor education, tourism, and camping and picnic grounds. Furthermore, as in most areas of regional NSW, there is a lack of planning regarding the defence of Neighbourhood Safer Places. One of the key recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Inquiry was to support liaison with local communities in bushfire planning and preparation and to adopt community-based plans as part of the planning and preparation process. However, KVCBC has encountered resistance from government agencies in seeking to initiate community input into bushfire planning and preparation.
Community information and safety
In the experience of KVCBC, bushfire emergency information systems need improvement including the Fires Near Me application. Effective and humane evacuation of vulnerable people and people with animals, both during days of Severe, Extreme or Catastrophic fire risk and during an actual bushfire, needs greater attention. The current Community Protection Program is inadequate and more needs to be done in policy-making and planning bushfire refuges. Detailed public information is needed on private bushfire shelters and household sheltering. There is a strong need to identify other safer locations and communities need guidance in this regard. Detailed guidelines are also needed on landscaping around buildings and retrofitting of buildings including last-minute retrofits.
Kangaroo Valley look to be leading the way in proper community consultation and the submission really highlights the benefits that can be achieved. It also shows the importance of devolving responsibility to a local level and involving all government agencies in the solution.