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Burning Questions Unanswered over TWWHA Fires

Media Release - Thursday, 17 March 2016,


Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader and Parks spokesperson

In Question Time today, neither the Minister for Parks, Mr Groom, nor the Minister for Emergency Services, Mr Hidding, could explain why it took so long for the State to request extra remote fire-fighting resources to douse the fires in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in January this year.

It is clear from a Right to Information request we lodged that Mr Groom sat on his hands for at least two weeks after the fires began on 13 January and that no request was made to the Commonwealth for help.

In these two weeks the fires got out of control and incinerated alpine and rainforest ecosystems found nowhere else in the world.  A total of 20 000 hectares have been burned, much of it will never recover.

Minister Hidding refused to explain why he laughed at the Greens' suggestion that the Australian Army be asked to help, when fire-fighters from the New Zealand Army were already here on the ground.

The history shows that a short time after Mr Hidding scoffed at us, the Australian Army also arrived to help on the ground.

Asking these questions of Ministers about their priorities and resource allocation to fighting fires in our priceless wilderness is no reflection on the outstanding work of our fire-fighters.  Their tireless efforts ensured no lives were lost as a result of the unprecedented fires.

Today, the Australian Senate passed a motion to approve an independent inquiry in to the fires.   To ensure we don't make the same mistakes next time, the Tasmanian Government should become a willing participant in this expert-based public process.