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Climate-Related Fire Events - Resourcing

20 March 2019

Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

Last Friday, an estimated 8000 passionate, frightened young Tasmanians 
gathered on parliament's lawns to demand action on climate.

Yesterday you laid out your Government's agenda for the next three years 
and climate did not even rate a mention, yet you did touch on the 
bushfires, without acknowledging climate change, towards the end of your 
speech. People have lost their homes and their livelihoods and, as we 
speak, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is still burning. 
More than 3 per cent of the state has been torched.

It is a fact that your Government failed to adopt and resource all the 
recommendations of the Dr Tony Press review and then made a decision to 
ignore a cost-neutral plan from the Firefighters Union for stronger, more 
effective remote firefighting response.

This summer is likely to be another scorcher with the Bureau of 
Meteorology predicting a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño event.

Will you commit to ensuring the resourcing that is commended and required 
to limit the damage caused by climate-related fire events in this May's 
state budget?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Clark for her question.

Of course, climate change is an important issue for this Government, which 
is why we have released strategies, policies and initiatives to deal with 
it in a practical way. The Minister for the Environment will have more to 
say about these matters, as we will as a government over the coming weeks, 
months and years. We take these matters seriously. We recognise that a 
government response is appropriate. It is under this Government that we 
have made not only significant investments dealing with matters relating 
to our climate and the environment. We were one of the first 
jurisdictions to be emissions zero. We were actually net emissions state, 
which is a positive advancement for Tasmania, we are leading the world in 
many respects, and we intend to continue to do so.

We are increasing our efforts with respect to our fire response. The 
current fire season will be the subject of a review -

Ms O'Connor - There have already been three reviews.

Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, warning one.

Mr HODGMAN - appropriately so. We have reacted and responded to the last 
fire event. One of the most significant things we have done, which is 
normally the subject of criticism by the Greens, is fuel reduction burning.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The question to the Premier 
is: will he commit to providing the necessary resources in this May's 
state budget.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. I believe the Premier heard that.

Mr HODGMAN - With our Budget in good shape - much better than it was in 
your government - we are able to do more, including in responding to the 
fire threat. We have done so with a $55 million fuel reduction burn 
across the state, which the Greens are normally critical of. Whenever 
there is a burn outside of the fire season they are the first to criticise 
us. In this case, it has been suggested very clearly that our fuel 
reduction burns on the west coast prevented a further spread of wild fire. 
When it comes to the fire season our investment is significant - $55 
million. 

You ask us about a commitment in the Budget. If you look at that, it is 
most significant indeed. It comes in relation to other initiatives that 
we have undertaken, following the last bushfire event. Certainly, we will 
do so again following the independent review that is being undertaken in 
relation to this.

Regarding our wilderness areas, we have a number of initiatives underway 
to ensure that the research that has been done by the Tasmanian Government 
with an additional $4 million in funding is supporting a number of the 
research project's recommendations. Some have been implemented and others 
are continuing to be progressed, due to their longer-term nature. The 
recommendations include: improving bushfire management planning; bushfire 
risk assessment and modelling; bushfire recovery; developing a model of 
fire cover; and undertaking planned burning in the TWWHA.

The funding is also contributing to the Tasmanian Government's commitment 
to meet national and international responsibilities to protect the 
outstanding, universal value of the TWWHA. A committee meeting comprising 
representatives from DPIPWE, the TFS and the Department of Premier and 
Cabinet meets quarterly to monitor implementation of the recommendations.

One of the key outputs of the work currently being conducted is a 
comprehensive TWWHA fire management plan that will contain: clear 
objectives for fire management in the TWWHA; clarity regarding 
circumstances in which priority will be given to protecting the 
outstanding, universal value of the TWWHA over built assets; clear 
objectives for the management burning in the TWWHA, including indigenous 
and burning practices; and framework for monitoring impacts of bushfires 
and planned burns in the TWWHA.

The Parks and Wildlife Service is also reviewing its immediate, medium- 
and long-term fire suppression capabilities; reviewing the research 
program on fire on natural and cultural heritage values; enhancing its 
risk assessment tools, including the bushfire risk assessment model and 
bushfire operational hazard model; revision mapping outlying vegetation 
communities and other fire-sensitive vegetation communities in the TWWHA; 
and conducting rehabilitation trials in areas of the TWWHA that were 
impacted by the 2016 fire.

Ms O'Connor was part of a government that cut services. We have invested 
heavily resourcing our firefighters to better prevent and fight fires. 
This includes an unprecedented $55 million in fuel reduction strategies to 
decrease the bushfire risk in Tasmania, which was not done under the 
former government. These are a number of specific issues that we are 
taking to protect our wilderness areas from fire. We have done more to 
invest in our firefighting capabilities across the board. We are able to 
better do so because our budget is now back in a strong condition and our 
economy is strong. As we have said in our plan, we will continue to do it.