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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 June 2011) . . Page.. 2835 ..

(b) that the ACT Government’s Fire Management Unit currently is located within the Parks and Conservation Service, Parks and City Services Division, Territory and Municipal Services Directorate;

(c) that this Fire Management Unit provides an essential function in fire mitigation through effective land management in the ACT, particularly in rural areas within the Territory; and

(d) that the ACT Government has decided to abolish the Fire Management Unit as from 1 July 2011; and

(2) calls on the Minister for Police and Emergency Services to:

(a) reverse the decision to abolish the Fire Management Unit within the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate; and

(b) provide a report to the Assembly by the first sitting day in August 2011 of the reasons on which the abolition decision was based.

This is a very serious motion, for two very important reasons. Firstly, the motion relates to a group of people within the ACT government who have specific and critical expertise in land management, particularly pertaining to a mixture of land and fire management. Secondly, the motion highlights a concern about the general human reaction to major disasters, particularly bushfires.

Firstly dealing with the role of the fire management unit, the fire management unit is an integral component of the land management function of the ACT. Land management is a recognised and critical function of any government and is especially important in regions which are prone to events such as bushfires, as we are in the ACT and as are relationships between the public sector land managers and bodies such as the ESA, the ACT Rural Fire Service, all the voluntary bushfire fighters as well as the private land managers.

I recall in the McLeod report and bring to the attention of members that comments were made by Ron McLeod on the bushfire disaster in the ACT in January 2003. Mr McLeod provided a number of specific comments on the important relationship between these agencies and the role of the public sector in land management. There are several pages from 148 onwards where there are a couple of recommendations that members are not aware of. McLeod says that a number of submissions were made. He says:

First, it helps to reinforce the message that fire prevention and suppression are an integral part of land managers’ role in protecting the land they control. This can have considerable psychological value in helping to shape the ethos of an organisation and in providing a balance between fire-prevention activities and environment protection and other socially desirable objectives.

Second, an arrangement of this nature can have practical value, in that the people who work in public parks and forests gain an intimate knowledge and understanding of the land they supervise. This is of inestimable value in a fire emergency when local knowledge and understanding of the terrain and what it contains are at a premium.

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