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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5245 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

That is the impact of the government's commitment-more throughput, more treatment and more money. The government has got the situation focused. We are working on addressing access and we are delivering results.


MR PRATT: My question is to the minister for emergency services. The macro weather/drought patterns and associated bushfire risk conditions have improved little since December 2002. Therefore, the risk to the ACT community will continue to be very high. Having been caught out a year ago, the community is somewhat better prepared and more wary than it was in the 2002-03 summer and there has been a marked improvement in community education and information.

Minister, what alert procedures do you have in place, and what is the nature of those procedures, to warn vulnerable communities when bushfire breaks out in dire weather and environmental conditions?

MR WOOD: Broadly, they remain as they were before; but, as you would expect, there has been a vast amount of refinement about that, especially in relation to the emergency siren signal. There is now a clear arrangement about that. It will be broadcast across all channels. It will be sent out when fire officers determine that a problem is approaching and will be sent out at a very early stage. There have been refinements and there has been attention to the way that the forward lines, if you like, are alerted to issues so that the signal will come back at an appropriate pace-in fact, better than that, as soon as possible in the circumstances. I take it that you are talking about the public alarm that needs to be raised?

Mr Pratt: I am talking about the days prior.

MR WOOD: That is an interesting question because on the days prior we will be, as always, monitoring any incidents. The circumstances are quite different this year. Namadgi National Park is, effectively, burnt out.

As examination is made of potential areas, the long grass on the western fringes presents a major hazard. Of course, a great amount of work has gone into containing that; nevertheless, there is a very large amount of grass. The most significant threat is to the urban parks-the Canberra Nature Park, Black Mountain and similar places-that remain fairly well intact from last year, except for the extensive clearing and hazard reduction that has gone on. Sometimes you have not liked that.

Mr Corbell: They want to have it both ways.

MR WOOD: Yes, they do seem to want it both ways. They complain about fuel reduction. Both the bushfire and the urban fire services are extraordinarily alert to situations that might arise and the communications basically come back to the very simple, easy communication back to headquarters.

MR PRATT: I have a supplementary question. Minister, do you have in place procedures to alert vulnerable communities directly before the fire hits them? Will you

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