Page 287 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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such as ambulance, fire and rural fire, and our police that ensure Canberrans are free to enjoy all that the city has to offer safely.

In order to better serve the people of the ACT there has been a lot of change in the emergency services area over the past 12 months, and the government is proud of these achievements. Urban and rural fire and emergency services are better prepared than ever before to provide their services to the ACT region, and the government has a vision of creating a safer community through collaboration and excellence in emergency services. This means working together to provide the best emergency services possible to the people of the ACT.

The most significant event in the past year was the development and commencement of the Emergencies Act 2004 and, through it, the creation of the Emergency Services Authority as an independent statutory authority, reporting directly to the minister. The Emergency Services Commissioner is responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of the fire brigade, ambulance service, rural fire service and the state emergency service.

A significant change in the delivery of emergency consequent management services in the ACT is the addition of protecting the environment as an objective. The ESA has the objective of protecting and preserving life, property and the environment in the ACT. Annual funding for emergency services has increased by $9.2 million, or 23 per cent to $44.8 million. The ESA has set about to significantly increase staff and volunteers. These include 36 additional staff for the fire brigade; 19 additional staff for the ambulance service; and 18 additional planning, logistics, community education positions across the rural fire service, state emergency service and operational support. Funding has also been provided for an additional 200 volunteer bushfire fighters and 150 SES volunteers.

Community education has also become a priority for the authority. It has undertaken a comprehensive bushfire season media and public education campaign. We have also seen the first bushfire abatement zone created in the ACT. The bushfire abatement zone enables the ESA to intensify fuel management in particular areas to reduce the impact of bushfires in build-up areas.

The ESA has recently concluded a round of community consultation for the establishment of a strategic bushfire management plan. The consultation period began on 25 October and concluded on 3 December. The response to the consultation has been terrific with more than 4000 people accessing the draft. The plan will provide a basis for bushfire hazard assessment and risk analysis; bushfire prevention, including hazard reduction; and agency and community preparation and response in relation to bushfires.

After community consultation has been folded into the final phase it will be introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly for adoption in time for the 2005-06 bushfire season. I am confident, because of all the hard work that has been undertaken, that the government—through the ACT Emergency Services Authority—is on the right track and is better prepared than ever before to protect the life, property and environment of the ACT.

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