This excellent submission by the National Farmers Federation to the Royal Commission makes compelling reading:

In rural and regional Australia, farmers and local community members comprise much of the firefighting efforts, using their own equipment and expertise knowledge of the landscape.
During the 2019-20 bushfire response, the NFF has been informed of multiple incidences across multiple states of firefighting efforts by state departments being diminished due to poor coordination between Departments and the local communities. For example, in NSW, the poor
coordination, and the chain of command, between the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and volunteer firefighters prevented local firefighters from making crucial decisions that would have reduced the severity of the fire in that event, and therefore the fighting effort. This included:

  • Disallowing the use of privately owned firefighting units;
  • Significant delay before receiving authorisation to conduct critical and strategic backburns, and
  • Preventing the local firefighting force from making efforts to control the fire

The NFF provided a detailed case study at Appendix A which is chilling in terms of the incpometence it highlights.

Much better you read the entire document but I have summarised their recommendations:

  • The NFF recommends State Governments delegate greater autonomy to local volunteer firefighting forces to make appropriate decisions during a bushfire.
  • The NFF also recommends State Governments develop mechanisms to ensure local knowledge can be incorporated and utilised into the decision-making process to improve the effectiveness of the firefighting response.
  • The NFF recommends that State Governments seek to reduce their potential liabilities and financial risk where it is necessary to carry out fire fighting activities including hazard reductionburns.
  • The NFF recommends the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework be used to guide response and resilience to bushfire risk as well as the recommendations of this Royal Commission to minimise losses imposed by bushfires in the future.
  • The NFF recommends the Government consider mechanisms that can help fast-track implementation of previous bushfire recommendations.
  • The NFF recommends the Commonwealth work with State Governments to ensure there are consistent rules around the ability to manage fuel risk at the intersection between private and public land.
  • The NFF recommends that governments, public land managers, the agricultural sector and associated industries recognise the potential, and learn from, indigenous fire management knowledge and practices.
  • The NFF recommends governments to review all opportunities and approaches to bushfire preparedness, including different methods of fuel and land management (for example ‘cool burning’, mechanical slashing, integrated forest management, traditional fire approaches) to protect life and property as well as ecological and cultural values.
  • The NFF recommends the creation of an Australian National Audit Office function that audits national fire preparedness against bushfires.
  • The NFF recommends development of a national bushfire policy for Australia to ensure consistency in land management and planning strategies, and to provide guidance from which states and coordinate tasks.
  • The NFF therefore recommends the Commonwealth extends funding to the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC (or similar) to undertake coordinated and interdisciplinary research.
  • The NFF recommends Government to explore the efficacy for selective logging in bushfire ravaged areas as part of a nationally coordinated bushfire response.

You can read the entire report here:

National Farmers’ Federation Submission to Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements
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