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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 August 2018) . . Page.. 3267 ..

declared for Sydney and surrounding areas, and active fires around Nowra resulted in evacuations to parts of Ulladulla.

The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that the Murray-Darling Basin has experienced the driest January to June since 1986, and as part of the picture the ACT currently has a very low soil moisture. The rainfall outlook for the coming months is expected to be low, with higher than expected temperatures. The Bureau of Meteorology has also issued an El Nino watch, which indicates that the likelihood of El Nino this summer is higher than normal. Unless future outlooks start to suggest that the situation differs, the risks from heatwave and bushfire to the ACT from this coming summer must be assessed and elevated. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Council will release their southern Australia seasonal bushfire outlook at the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council conference in early September this year.

The ESA has responsibility for responding to bushfire in the ACT, with its mission to work together to care and protect through cohesive operations, collaborative management and unified executive. The strategic bushfire management plan, the SBMP, provides a planned and measured approach to managing the risk of bushfire in the territory. The SBMP is the key document for the ACT for managing the risk of bushfire, which is reviewed every five years and presented to this Assembly. The latest territory-wide risk assessment, released in 2017, continues to identify bushfire, along with heatwave, as the ACT’s extreme risk.

The ESA, through the ACT Rural Fire Service and ACT Fire & Rescue, and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, EPSDD, through the parks and conservation service, have highly skilled, experienced and qualified firefighters who stand ready to protect the community should it be required. Firefighters in the ACT are a mix of volunteers and employed people and are well resourced and well trained.

The ESA assists the land managers from the ACT parks and conservation service within the EPSDD to mitigate the risk of bushfire. The EPSDD bushfire operations plan sets out the work and activities that the ACT parks and conservation service aim to achieve each financial year to help manage bushfire risk across the territory.

The early declaration of the fire season has minimal impact on the delivery of fire preparations for the EPSDD, including the ACT parks and conservation service. This is because fire preparedness is a year-round function and the ACT parks and conservation services work crews are already engaged in implementing required works under the EPSDD draft bushfire operations plan. Prescribed burns are implemented when the weather and ground conditions are appropriate and allow a burn to be undertaken safely, and this can happen at any time of the year.

EPSDD delivers a range of bushfire preparedness activities, including prescribed burning; strategic stock grazing; management of trail upgrades; and maintenance, mulching and slashing of fuels. Essential activities such as fire training, seasonal recruitment and establishment of contracts for slashing are currently being undertaken,

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