News Roundup May 4th

Lots of Hazard Reduction Burns Across the State

It’s great to see so much Hazard Reduction taking place all across the state and we’ve summarised some of the stories reported in the last week:

  • The Leader reported that crews from Sutherland Shire were kept busy in recent days, taking part in hazard reduction operations and extinguishing a bushfire which broke out in the Royal National Park on Sunday.
    Woronora Bush Fire Brigade volunteers were among those assisting with a planned hazard reduction operation in Engadine on Saturday before being called out to battle a bushfire which broke in the Royal National Park the following day. In a post on its Facebook page, Woronora Bush Fire Brigade said it received a call to assist the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to extinguish an out of control campfire at South West Arm in the Royal National Park.
  • News reported that ferry services were temporarily cancelled, a flight turned around mid-air and outdoor workers were encouraged to drop the tools, as a blanket of smoke haze wreaked havoc in Sydney.
  • Passengers on-board a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Sydney were told the weather was not suitable to land in the Harbour City on all runways. The conditions and a lack of fuel forced the plane to turn back around to Melbourne after it travelled as far as Canberra. The smoke haze came after NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) used a break in the weather to carry out hazard reduction burns.
    Controlled burns have taken place on the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Sutherland Shire. Department of Primary Industries has issued a statement on Monday morning classifying the air quality as “poor”. It caused the F3 Parramatta River, F4 Pyrmont Bay and F8 Cockatoo Island ferries to stop running temporarily.
    “Make alternative travel arrangements and consider catching a train or regular bus instead,” Sydney Ferries posted on Twitter. However, the services were restored just before 10am.
  • Mirage News reported that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in conjunction with the NSW Rural Fire Service are undertaking a hazard reduction burn in Jervis Bay National Park today, Friday 30 April.
Hazard reduction burn, Jervis Bay National Park
  • In a separate story Mirage also reported the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in cooperation with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is continuing its hazard reduction burns in South Coast national parks between Braidwood and Bermagui from Thursday 29 April 2021.
    NPWS South Branch Director Kane Weeks said multiple burns are planned for this area within the next fortnight to take advantage of favourable conditions. “These essential burns are in areas were not directly impacted by the black summer bushfires and aim to reduce the bushfire risk to the parks, neighbours and the community”
    Mr Weeks said.
    Burns this week are:
    – A 88-hectare burn is planned for Nadigoomar National Park, just north of Braidwood today, Thursday 29 April.
    – A 29-hectare burn is planned at Mystery Bay, within Eurobodalla National Park Friday 30 April.
    – A 331-hectare hazard reduction burn at Brogo Dam in Wadbilliga National Park on Saturday 1 May.
Drip line, staff from Metro South West and Blue Mountains regions undertaking the Pisgah Ridge hazard reduction burn near Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains National Park
  • The Grenfell Record stated that over the weekend the NSW Rural Fire Service, with assistance from Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service conducted two hazard reduction burns across the Mid Lachlan Valley. The first burn took place in an area located east of Grenfell along Major West Road Bumbaldry and the second near Saleyards Road Parkes. The NSW Rural Fire Service Mid Lachlan Valley Team said the burns will help to reduce the risk to properties within the surrounding areas.

    The team has issued a thank you to a number of brigades across the Mid Lachlan Valley including Brundah, Forbes Central, Greenethorpe, Parkes Headquarters and Weddin Headquarters who gave up some of their weekend to assist in completing these hazard reduction burns.
  • Mirage reported that the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is conducting a hazard reduction burn at Nepean Narrows in the Blue Mountains National Park Sunday 25 April, weather permitting. Around 100 hectares will be treated. Smoke may impact visibility on Mulgoa Road during the operation, and drivers are urged to take care. It is important this burn goes ahead to help protect residents and businesses from future large fire events. It will also help to maintain biodiversity and reduce fuel loads in the area. Depending on conditions, other burns may also be carried out in the region next week so smoke may be visible in the area for several days. We thank our neighbours and visitors to the region for their understanding.
Blue Mountains National Park covers an area of 2,690 square kilometres

Firefighters and emergency personnel remembered

Emergency service personnel were among the thousands who attended Anzac Day services across the South East, reflecting on those who served at war and the lives lost during last season’s bushfires, reported the ABC.

Deputy Coordinator for the National Bushfire Recovery Agency Major General Andrew Hocking was the guest speaker at Bega’s Anzac Day services and said the Bega Valley Shire was a perfect example of a community that reflected the Anzac spirit.

“We really needed this,” Major General Hocking said.

“We needed to come together and put our last two years of struggles in the sense of a broader national history.”

A soldier lays a wreath for anzac day.
Guest speaker General Andrew Hocking from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency lays a wreath for Anzac Day.(ABC South East: Keira Proust)

Major General Hocking believes commemorating Anzac Day as a community was an important step forward towards their bushfire recovery.

“It’s probably the most important part of recovery, and just being able to reconnect on such a special day was good for everybody.”

Auditor pulls up emergency agencies

The NSW auditor general says emergency agencies are failing to implement recommendations from previous inquiries.

An audit has raised questions about how well NSW emergency response agencies are implementing recommendations of previous inquiries reports the Government News.

The NSW Auditor General has found shortcomings in how emergency response agencies are responding to recommendations from previous inquiries into natural disasters like bushfires and floods.

NSW Auditor General Margaret Crawford.

The audit looked at how the RFS, SES, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife and Resilience NSW addressed recommendations about how to better respond to natural disasters.

It found “important and consistent gaps” and said the agencies failed to show they’d implemented, or were monitoring, the recommendations.

“This creates a risk that issues with disaster prevention or responses highlighted by public inquiries are not addressed in a complete or timely way and may persist or recur in the future,” Auditor General Margaret Crawford said.

191 recommendations

The audit looked at processes the agencies used to implement 191 recommendations from 17 public inquiries into bushfires, severe storms and floods.

The inquiries related to the 2013-14, 2016-17- and 2017-18 bushfire seasons and storms and flooding in 2015, 2016 and 2017, as well as workforce issues.

The report found that for two-thirds of the recommendations reviewed, the agencies failed to sufficiently verify that they had been implemented as intended, or in line with the outcomes sought.

They had also failed to allocate any milestone dates or priority rankings.

The was also a failure to report publicly on progress raising concerns about about accountability, Ms Crawford said.

“No agency maintained a central and comprehensive approach – such as a register – to track recommendations for all public inquiries,” she said.

In a joint letter responding to the audit, Fire and Rescue NSW, Resilience NSW, SES and RFS said it should be noted that the scope of the audit was limited to process and governance around delivery of recommendations.

Of the 191 recommendations looked at in the audit, 98 per cent had been implement or were in process, the agencies said.

Senior executive with responsibility

The report recommends that all agencies should have a senior manager who is responsible for implementing recommendations.

It says there should be a formal mechanism for accepting recommendations and a requirement publish an update every 12 months.

The auditor also says Resilience NSW should begin operating the central accountability mechanism recommended by the NSW Bushfire Inquiry by the end of this year.

Resilience NSW says it’s in the process of establishing the mechanism, and would report to parliament on the recommendations of the NSW bushfire Inquiry next month.

Ms Crawford said the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements were outside the scope of the current audit but had also raised questions about how previous recommendations were being implemented.

Cobargo Anzac Day the village’s first major community gathering since bushfire devastation

Aside from the crowd being smaller than pre-COVID times, the Cobargo Anzac Day service once again received dedicated and continued support from the younger generations, reported the Bega District News

Pupils from Cobargo, Quaama Public Schools and the Cobargo Scouts attended, with the special additions of the schools singing tributes on the day.ADVERTISING

The vice-president of the RSL sub-branch, Warrant Officer Graham Churchill, said he found the continued civilian support from Cobargo “terrific”.

“Having the school children and Scouts come along and be part of the ceremony I think is important both for for service people such as myself and ex-service people,” Mr Churchill said.

“They’re our next generation, they’re the people that are going to be supporting the town, supporting the ex-service people.”

Another aspect of the Cobargo’s service was the catafalque party provided by the Australian Defence Force which has been happening over the last handful of years.

Tens of thousands to get national medal for 2019-20 bushfire service

As many as 130,000 people across four states and the ACT will receive a National Emergency Medal for their service during the extreme 2019-20 bushfire season, with nominations to remain open for additional recipients, reported the ABC.

The award honours “sustained service” in a nationally significant emergency, and will mark the fifth such event since the medal was first awarded after Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. The other three occasions were related to floods and cyclones.

Rural Fire Service volunteers at the Hillville fire in November 2019. Many volunteers will get a National Emergency Medal for service during the huge fire season in 2019-20.
Rural Fire Service volunteers at the Hillville fire in November 2019. Many volunteers will get a National Emergency Medal for service during the huge fire season in 2019-20.

RFS hires lawyers to examine misconduct claims after 2500 responses

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Rural Fire Service has hired law firm Clayton Utz to review previous claims of serious misconduct after a workplace survey generated almost 2500 responses, mostly from volunteers.

In an email to members, obtained by the Herald, RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said the decision would allow “a review of serious matters they reported in the past three years, where the member doesn’t believe that the appropriate process was followed, or that the outcome wasn’t appropriate”.

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers, with Emergency Services Minister David Elliott in the background.
RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers, with Emergency Services Minister David Elliott in the background.

Mr Rogers said members would be able to lodge claims directly with Clayton Utz and any matters would be treated confidentially.

He also said the findings of a Grievance and Discipline Survey would be analysed, with a report back to RFS members by the end of May.

President of the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association Mick Holton welcomed the engagement of a law firm to oversee complaints of bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination or other misconduct.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Mr Holton said. “Are we there yet? We’ll see but I don’t think so.”

The association has concerns about the independence of Clayton Utz given their past work for the RFS, as well as about the number of complaints the lawyers will not be examining.

Clayton Utz will not consider complaints reported before May 31, 2018, nor those previously unreported. Complaints involving staff managed under section 69 of the Government Sector Employment Act will also be excluded.

Farm Force

Farm force kids teaching kids

The NSW Government Local Land Services feaured a story about Farm Force and encouraged readers to  visit the Farm Force webpage.

Farm Force explains: The ‘Farm Force’ Enviro-Stories program involves rural kids from the Hunter region learning about the importance of good preparation to try and help make their farm more resilient and reduce the impacts of bushfire, pests, drought and flood. This will enable them to help their families prepare both now and, in the future, when they become the next generation of property managers.

The ‘Farm Force’ program will provide rural kids the opportunity to:

  • reflect on their experiences of bushfire, pests, drought and flood
  • learn about things that they and their families can do to prepare their property for the future, making them more resilient and lessening the impact of these disasters
  • express themselves through their stories and artwork to possibly contribute to an Enviro-Stories book
  • learn from their peers as the books created will become a resource for the community

This is the tamnplate for Bushfire Battlers:

Bushfire Battlers

Bushfire Battlers

Australia is a hot, dry continent so each year we live with the threat of bushfires throughout the warmer months. Farming families work hard to prepare their properties to try and protect their assets and limit the impact of fire.

The 2019/2020 bushfires were the most severe on record as they affected such large areas. Rural regions were hit hard with severe damage done to bushland, properties and community infra-structure. Sadly, some lives were lost of those who chose to defend their places and their communities.

After going through a traumatic experience like these fires an important step to recovery is to talk about and reflect on what happened.

The first ‘Farm Force’ book will be a compilation made from reflections of rural kids about the bushfires. Kids will use the template provided and create between 1-3 pages with text and a picture.
We would like to hear from any school age kids about their experiences. We want their stories to contain information about:

Preparedness – What sort of things did your family do to try and prepare your property for the threat of bushfire? Were you given responsibilities during this time to help prepare your property? Are there things that your family are planning to do in the future to prepare for bushfire?

Reflection – Reflect on your experiences during the 2019/2020 bushfires. Was your property affected? How did you feel during this experience? Did you feel like you were informed about what was occurring?

Community – How did your community came together both during and after the bushfire crisis? Think of things like police, firefighters, ambulance, Red Cross, schools, volunteers, medical professionals, army reserve, fundraising, donations, special events, media, neighbours, families, veterinary assistance, livestock care, wildlife care and any other people who have helped support affected communities.

Bushfire Battlers Story Template

Six months of progress after Bushfire Royal Commission

Mirage News reported that the Australian Government is methodically implementing the recommendations handed down on 30 October 2020 by the Royal Commission Into National Natural Disasters (Royal Commission).

China denies Australian minister's request to talk about barley amid  coronavirus investigation tension - ABC News

Recommendations already implemented include the establishment of the National Emergency Declaration Act 2020, faster and more efficient Australian Defence Force deployment, and the development of a charity coordination mechanism.

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said that the devastating Black Summer bushfires and the Royal Commission’s findings must transform the way we prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.

“There have been over 240 reports into natural disasters since 1920 and this one can’t go on the shelf and gather dust,” Minister Littleproud said.

The Australian Government got straight to work after receiving this report.

“The Federal Government responded to all of the recommendations within weeks, and committed to boosting our federal emergency management capabilities, driving risk reduction and mitigation initiatives, and improving how people experience the recovery journey

“We are six months down the track and on track to deliver what we promised.

“Our fire chiefs and aviation industry do an excellent job of maintaining the national aerial firefighting fleet, and I am consulting them to understand what more is needed to manage longer, overlapping fire seasons.

“In February, I published online a monthly implementation tracker and called on all levels of government, not for profits and the private sector, to be transparent about our collective progress.

“I thank the New South Wales and Tasmanian Governments for supporting the recommendations, but disappointingly, other state and territory governments have failed to do the same.

“I also wrote to the Insurance Council of Australia asking how they will improve their consumer guidance on getting a fair premium through recognised risk mitigation actions, but I have had no response from them either.

“We have a responsibility to work together on this and not lose our focus on a better prepared and more resilient Australia.”

The implementation tracking document is available on the
Department of Home Affairs website​.

Dad and daughter duo on front line of fire prevention

Article image for Dad and daughter duo on front line of fire prevention

16-year-old firefighter Lauren Preston has made her debut as a fully-fledged member of the RFS with dad Jody by her side.

The father-daughter duo from Wallacia Fire Brigade conducted a hazard reduction burn on Sunday, Lauren’s first since joining the brigade on her 12th birthday, reports 2GB.

Jody Preston, the Wallacia captain, explained told Jim Wilson why the hazard reductions – and specifically “asset protection zone burns” – are so crucial despite the annoyances of the smoke.

“I’d just like to encourage everyone, it doesn’t matter where you live, to look at joining your local RFS or SES, or … any sort of volunteer organisation.

“It is really rewarding.”

Shoalhaven Community to Lead Bushfire-resilient FORTIS House Design

FORTIS house architects Ian Weir and Kylie Feher

The Shoalhaven community are invited to provide input in the development of a bushfire-resilient house design as part of a community led project being run by Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA), NRMA Insurance and Shoalhaven City Council.  The project, known as FORTIS House, aims to help residents save time and money by providing a highly resilient, sustainable, affordable and adaptable building design, for free.  

FORTIS will make the re-building process easier, with free architectural drawings, construction manual and consumer handbook that shows community members, building designers and trades how to adapt the design to a homeowner’s site requirements, style and required bushfire attack level (BAL) rating. 

The project was established in response to calls for help from community members struggling to re-build their homes and lives in bushfire-prone areas. 

Council is seeking input from bushfire-affected community members in the Shoalhaven to develop the bushfire-resilient ‘FORTIS House’ through an online community design workshop on 26 May 2021. 

Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley encouraged community members navigating their way through the re-building process to participate in the project.  

“Council is proud to partner with the Bushfire Building Council of Australia and NRMA Insurance to the FORTIS house design project.  

“This is a unique opportunity for the Shoalhaven community to have their say in how bushfire resilient building design can look and feel, and it will showcase our region internationally.” 

“Community feedback is incredibly valuable to inform the development and design of the FORTIS House, and it will help other bushfire-prone communities recover faster and become more resilient,” she said. 

BBCA CEO, Kate Cotter, said she was looking forward to working with the Shoalhaven community on a recovery project with a tangible outcome that will be utilised by residents. “Recovering communities may face long planning and re-building timelines. FORTIS will provide an easy-to-understand, adaptable and affordable house design template that meets planning and building code requirements – getting people back in their homes faster,” she said.  

“The Shoalhaven community’s contribution to the FORTIS House design project will help bushfire-prone communities improve their resilience, fast-track their recovery and get their lives back.” 

The FORTIS House public launch will be held in Shoalhaven in October this year. For more information, including how to participate in the project visit FORTIS House website or visit Council’s project page to stay up to date.

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