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Climate-Related Fire Events - Resourcing

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Tags: Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Climate Change


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?




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.