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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 November 2021) . . Page.. 3110 ..

High-risk weather season—preparation

Ministerial statement

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.21): I am presenting a statement on the high-risk weather season preparedness and seasonal outlook. I want to take this opportunity to commend the ACT Emergency Services Agency, or ESA, and the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, or PCS, for their engagement in extensive preparedness and readiness activities for the 2021-22 high-risk weather season.

The storm season officially began on 1 September 2021, and the ACT bushfire season commenced on 1 November 2021, which was delayed following consultation with the Bushfire Council and following the release of the Bureau of Meteorology and Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2021.

The Australian government Bureau of Meteorology has declared a La Nina alert for the 2021-22 summer period. A La Nina alert indicates an increased likelihood of higher than average rainfall. The risks from heatwave and bushfire to the ACT from this are deemed average in comparison to historic records. The weather predictions for summer 2021-22 indicate that the south-east of Australia faces an increased likelihood of riverine flooding arising from greater potential rainfall and increased temperatures and moisture availability, which will increase the risk of severe thunderstorms in the ACT.

While rainfall events will reduce the risk of forest fire ignitions over the summer months, they may result in sped-up growth in grasslands and increase the available fuel for grassfire ignitions within or adjacent to the Canberra urban area. ESA have undertaken to coordinate various activities to ensure that their teams and the ACT community are bushfire and storm prepared, in line with the ACT Strategic Bushfire Management Plan.

The ESA has undertaken both internal and external preparedness workshops with key stakeholders on the delivery of both an incident management and an operational exercise program for suitably qualified personnel. The operational exercise program provided two tabletop discussion exercises for ESA executives and senior incident management personnel. This was designed to undertake a more thorough program of incident management practices to elevate the outputs of the ESA incident management team to include a greater focus on strategic planning.

Whilst the COVID outbreak and subsequent lockdown in August 2021 have meant that collective training has had to be postponed, all volunteers and staff of the ESA have maintained their skills and kept up to date on current safe practices through virtual and online training and refreshers. ESA has also undertaken significant planning to maintain its operational capability in a COVID-restricted environment. These operational arrangements have been reviewed and refined to cater for the Delta

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