It’s been well over two months from the Sir Ivan fire and there are many groups (including the VFFA) that are looking for answers.
There has been a great deal of criticism about the way that this fire was handled by the NSW RFS hierarchy. The VFFA visited the fire ground on the 18th of February, caught up with some of the locals and have been collecting information.
All indicators suggest that:
- local farmers were ignored,
- local knowledge was not utilised, and
- local firefighters were held back.
The VFFA is now ready to release our own findings in a series of web site posts, magazine articles and social media content.
NSW Farmers Association Newsletter
As (NSW Farmers Association) members are aware, the St Ivan fire razed an estimated 55,000 hectares of farming-land east of Dunedoo, destroying vital agricultural infrastructure like sheds, machinery and homes. Further, damage to over 5,500 kilometres of fencing and more than 5,000 head of sheep and cattle has been reported, with the loss count continuing. In light of this, the Association is relieved and grateful that no lives were lost in this devastating fire.
(NSW Farmers) Association Actions
As you know, farmers form the backbone of the volunteer base of the Rural Fire Service (RFS). Many of our members have proud and long records protecting their local communities from bushfires, and the management of bushfires across NSW remains a priority for the Association.
In light of the St Ivan bushfire, the Association has taken a number of steps in the past few weeks to engage with the appropriate agencies:
- On 20 February 2017, BlazeAid volunteers and the Cassilis community received a visit from NSW Farmers’ President Derek Schoen and Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair.
- Mr Blair said he had travelled to Cassilis to hear directly from those affected what needed to be done stating, “Our approach has been: Tell us what you need.”
- Derek noted, “We’ve learnt from experience that in some fires the loss is total and some producers will be left with a blank canvas to try and rebuild from.”
- On 6 March 2017, the President, Derek Schoen, sent a letter to Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons proposing a meeting to discuss planning and preparedness for future fire situations and further collaboration with the RFS.
- On 15 and 16 March 2017, the Association member attended Rural Fire Service Advisory Committee meeting and the Bush Fire Coordinating Committee with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. The Commissioner noted receipt of the President’s letter and indicated that he would be setting up a meeting soon.
- The President also met with the Minister for Emergency Services, Troy Grant, where they discussed communication issues in emergency fire situation between agencies and farming communities and whether a coronial inquest into the St Ivan’s fire is going to be established.
Where to From Here
- NSW Farmers is calling for a coronial inquiry into the St Ivan fire. The Association will keep members abreast of the situation as it develops.
Further information on disaster assistance is available on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website disasterassist.gov.au and the New South Wales emergency information and response website at emergency.nsw.gov.au.
Important Information to keep on hand
For urgent assistance, always call 000. Emergency text (106) is available for people who are deaf or have a speech or hearing impairment.
NSW Rural Fire Service – 1800 679 737 – For information on fire bans and bushfires in NSW.
NSW State Emergency Services – 132 500 – Support and advice in the instance of an emergency, including offering clear instructions on creating a Home Emergency Plan.
For more information on natural disaster recovery assistance for primary producers, visit the Department of Primary Industries.
Please donate to the Merriwa – Sir Ivan Bushfire Appeal
(dated 6th April 2017)
The NSW Farmers’ Merriwa Branch joined forces with the Merriwa Show Society to establish the Merriwa-Sir Ivan Bushfire Appeal to assist affected landholders and residents.
The Sir Ivan bushfire in the State’s Central West has burnt through more than 55 thousand hectares, destroying large numbers of livestock and damaging hundreds of properties.
Money donated will go towards the purchase of cattle that will be fed at the Alexander Downs feedlot for a period of up to 80 days. Alexander Downs has kindly offered to feed the cattle at no cost.
The cattle will then be sold with all the sale proceeds going towards the appeal.
NSW Farmers has kicked off the appeal with a $5000 donation.
Donations can be made through their special purpose bank account:
- Account Name: NSW Farmers’ Association Natural Disaster Relief Fund
Account number: 18-215-7040
Payment Reference: MER
Do you have a story to share?
The VFFA continues to collect articles and stories for our web site, magazine and social media platforms. Media content can be send directly to the VFFA Media Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org