Page 529 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for Ageing) (5.35): I thank Dr Bourke for raising this issue today. I think we would all agree that there have been many lessons learned, from all perspectives and agencies, about how we can better prepare for bushfires here in the ACT. The current strategic bushfire management plan has had many iterations in its drafting process. The ACT Bushfire Council, which includes representatives from a broad range of relevant agencies, spent many years working through some quite difficult issues to come to the plan that we now have in place. Finding the right balance between ensuring that we minimise the risk of future fires, making sure we have the right infrastructure in place for when there are fires and conserving our precious ecosystems has been a very complex area.
On behalf of the Greens, I would also like to thank the Emergency Services Agency staff and volunteers for their ongoing work, and especially, of course, including last month’s work. It is reassuring to live in a city that is so much better prepared for bushfire than ever before and which has a well-coordinated response team. We have heard from Dr Bourke today about the huge efforts put in by so many volunteers and agencies last month. As the minister responsible, I would like to take this opportunity to raise the important role that TAMS, notably the Parks and Conservation Service, have also played in this area.
As Dr Bourke has pointed out, the government has undertaken a large amount of work since 2003 in implementing the strategic bushfire management plan. TAMS plays a significant role in this through implementing fuel reduction measures across the entire territory. This work ranges from hazard reduction burning, mowing, slashing and grazing, depending on the area, and the ecological or urban management context.
The ACT Parks and Conservation Service manages over 75 per cent of the land in the ACT, which I think most people acknowledge is a huge job. Sitting underneath the fire management plan are a number of subregional fire plans, and these are what underpin the detail of fire prevention plans for each area. You can imagine the difficulties around needing plans which address the diversity of vegetation types and the differences in management of delicate ecosystem types, such as the sphagnum bogs in Namadgi, compared to areas such as those with lots of pine wildling regrowth, or areas which abut the urban interface.
The fact that the government now have a much better picture of what the various vegetation types are across the territory, what the best land management practices are for each one, which ones need to be burned and how to best monitor and assess fuel loads, which ones are too delicate and instead should be hand-slashed and so on means that we are better prepared to withstand the climatic conditions which we expect to come over the next few years due to climate change.
Certainly, predictions from agencies such as the CSIRO and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are warning us that it is only going to get hotter and drier as we move into the future. In that context I think it is a relief to know that our land managers in the ACT are closely monitoring fuel loads across the territory and have a