Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 May 2017) . . Page.. 1614 ..
This history is reflected in my amendment to Mrs Jones’s motion that I have moved already. It is important to point out that these changes are about responsibility for fire control and planning in the BAZ. The existing response arrangements still outline that the first response to all grassfires and bushfires in the ACT will be by the nearest available and most appropriate resource, irrespective of jurisdiction or service.
I note for the Assembly’s information that the ACT Rural Fire Service currently has access to approximately 67 vehicles, two contract helicopters and over 500 volunteers and 150 parks and conservation staff to deal with any fire incidents in bushland, such as parks, reserves and farms. ACT Fire & Rescue has nine front-line pumpers, as well as tankers that can navigate through parks, reserves and farms as well as addressing the complex hazards of the built-up area.
Ultimately, the intention of the Emergencies Act is to bring together the full operational services under the command of the chief officers through the function of the ESA commissioner. This approach allows the ESA to effectively manage all hazards and incidents across the ACT region. Consistent with these arrangements, the ACT community can be assured that both ACT fire services, including the chief officers of both fire services, continue to operate side by side under the direction of the commissioner. As has been demonstrated, including in the most recent 2016-17 fire season, our fire service have an excellent record of working together collaboratively and cohesively in responding to fires in the BAZ.
As Canberra expands, we will continue our regular reviews of the BAZ and built-up area to make sure that changes in the urban landscape are reflected. For this reason, I am more than happy to report back to the Assembly at a date closer to the start of the next bushfire season with further information on how the BAZ is controlled in regards to planning and operations and what other operational procedures are in place to protect ACT’s urban and rural areas.
Madam Speaker, the community can be assured that the next time a major incident impacts the ACT, like the 2003 bushfires, the ESA is well placed to protect and preserve life, property and the environment.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (5.45): The Greens will be supporting the amendment circulated by Minister Gentleman. The issue of clarity regarding how bushfire abatement zones—or BAZs—are controlled both in regards to fuel reduction burning and in the event of a fire being within metres or kilometres of built-up areas is clearly of genuine interest to all members and, indeed, all Canberrans. None of us who lived here during the catastrophic fires of 2003 will forget the need for a well-coordinated emergency services response. We must all ensure that we never become complacent to the fact that we are, indeed, still the bush capital. Certainly Mr Smyth took great interest in these issues. His words will echo in my ears for a long time about never being complacent. I know he had some concerns about that. I think those of us who were here in 2003 will never forget it. We will always be mindful of needing to ensure that we have adequately resourced and well-coordinated services.