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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3927 ..

Thursday, 26 September 2019

MADAM SPEAKER (Ms J Burch) took the chair at 10 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional custodians, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Bushfire season—strategic management plan

Ministerial statement

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Advanced Technology and Space Industries, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.02): I rise to report to the Assembly about the 2019-20 bushfire season in the territory and to present the strategic bushfire management plan version 4. As the bush capital the ACT has a history of severe and damaging bushfires both locally and regionally. More recently changes in climate have contributed further to the threat of bushfire in the region.

We cannot escape the realities of climate change and the consequential risks it brings. Expert scientists have warned of drier winters and narrower opportunity windows in which to conduct hazard reduction burns. A Climate Council report found that over the past 40 years or so extreme fire weather has increased in large parts of Australia, including our region. The council noted that in New South Wales and the ACT the fire seasons have started earlier and lasted longer. The 2018-19 ACT bushfire season was a clear example of this, being the longest bushfire season since 2003-04.

The territory-wide risk assessment released in 2017 continues to identify bushfire and heatwave as the territory’s two extreme risks. This is why it is important that we not only prepare for the current threats but make a concerted effort to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, an area of focus that this government is leading in and will continue to do so. It is also important to ensure that we are taking the best possible approach to preparing for bushfire threats, and ensure that our community remains resilient to the threats.

The territory’s bushfire season is governed by provisions in the Emergencies Act 2004. This act outlines that the season will run from 1 October in any given year through to 31 March the following year unless conditions warrant a change to that time frame. The bushfire season is determined by the ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner. After consultation with the ACT Bushfire Council and taking into account the Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal outlook and the Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Council’s southern Australia seasonal bushfire outlook, I advise that the bushfire season will commence on 1 October 2019.

Due to prevailing dry conditions in parts of New South Wales, New South Wales Rural Fire Service declared an early start to the bushfire season in 22 local government areas. The ESA has been advised that the southern ranges to our north and east and southern slopes to our west will declare the bushfire period on

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