By Clare Armstrong – 10th December 2019
Claims that “green tape’’ worsened an already “difficult and dangerous’’ fire season will be investigated at a special inquiry that will probe the state’s bushfire hazard-reduction strategies, including land clearing and burn-offs.
The federal government has bowed to pressure to investigate if the ongoing deadly fire season was fuelled by a failure to properly manage vegetation in national parks, forests and on private properties.
It comes as firefighters on Monday raced to get on top of a number of major blazes around the state before temperatures are expected to soar again on Tuesday.
Parts of NSW are forecast to reach the low 40s on Tuesday, including 43C in Singleton and Walgett, and 42C in Penrith, Richmond, Cessnock, Muswellbrook and Forbes, with westerly winds and a potential southern change in the afternoon.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Tuesday would be “very dangerous” due to the very hot weather and windy conditions.
That combination, as we know, has been lethal in the past few months,” she said.
The Bangala Creek fire near the Queensland border at Tenterfield was the only blaze of the 87 burning across NSW at a “Watch and Act” level on Monday afternoon.
The newly launched bushfire inquiry will consider if governments at all levels have enough power to require landholders to reduce fire risks on their properties, and will investigate the science behind bushfire management activities and the impact of severe blazes.
Committee chair Liberal National MP Ted O’Brien said the inquiry was an “opportunity to better understand” how laws, mitigation strategies and the engagement of emergency services could impact fires.
“The committee understands people will have very passionate views about this, particularly in light of the current bushfire season,” he said.
“We look forward to hearing all views and assessing all the evidence put before us.”
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was among a number of National Party politicians who blamed “green-left ideology” for the unprecedented fires in recent weeks.
“There are things to learn out of every bushfire emergency and what’s clear is that more hazard-reduction work needs to be done during times where it is safe to do so,” he said last month.
NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said forecast conditions were not as bad as those experienced earlier this season, but the sheer size and number of fires already burning meant the outlook was still dire.
“It’s certainly going to be another difficult day, particularly given the scale and complexity of these fires and their proximity to so much more built-up and populated areas,” he said.