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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3683 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

different direction. Notwithstanding that, of course things have to be done between now and the start of the fire season, which arrives next week.

As we found out yesterday in the question on notice that you kindly tabled, Mr Speaker, many of the initiatives in this appropriation bill will not be available for this fire season. If I remember correctly from the report, the four tankers are not due until 30 June next year. Perhaps we should have concentrated on setting up the framework, getting on board those things that we could have quickly got on board and necessarily had to get on board, and then taken a long view. The new commissioner, when he or she is in place, may be lumbered with equipment that they do not necessarily want or they might have liked different equipment or a different structure. But in the interim we have put in an implementation committee, a fire management unit inside Urban Services and done a number of other things that may need to be changed.

I just make the point again that what really worries me, and what I think highlights the lack of a strategic view, is the issue of the four urban-rural interface pumpers. McLeod suggested an extra four units for the fleet and so we have these extra four units. But nowhere in the McLeod report did I see it suggested that the nine units that the fire brigade currently uses be removed. Those nine units give us about 20,000 litres of capacity to deliver, independent of hydrants. The four new tankers will give us 13,200 litres for the fire brigade to use, to deliver. So that is a huge drop in capacity. The sad thing about that is the flexibility that has been lost. I made this point on Tuesday and I will make it again, because the point needs to be made.

In a situation such as we had on 18 January this year, there were numerous fires everywhere and what was needed was flexibility. Earlier this week we had a day when it was windy and it suddenly went to 26 degrees. Had there been a fire, we might have had a number of small fires. The first response units would have been the fire brigade because none of the volunteers were standing up. We have taken away from the fire brigade that flexibility on the stations that were selected. They were selected on geography; they were the four stations most affected by the fires of the 18th. They got the new units, but they lost things like a light unit, which carries 500 litres of water and which is a very effective unit to send with two officers out to a small grass fire. Now we will have to send a much bigger unit, with a 3,400 litre capacity approximately, with probably a larger crew, to such a fire. Currently, with one of the old Mercedes pumpers and a light unit, we could send different units in different directions. But now there will be one unit to respond in one direction.

I think there has been a lack of thought about how we are going to fight the fires as they occur and where they occur. Fires are not orderly, as we all know and have learnt. What happened was that McLeod said we should have four tankers so we bought four tankers and are going to give them to the fire brigade and take the others from them. The problem is that we are losing flexibility. I am not sure, as we do not have the details, what will happen to the nine units. Are they a strategic reserve? At the Estimates Committee meeting I think it was said that they were to be distributed back to the brigades. But I think we need to do a bit more thinking before we jump in in an endeavour to be seen to be doing things.

When this was discussed with officers, there were differing views as to how the conclusion had been reached that we needed four. Who tested whether only four were

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