AN independent review will be undertaken to analyse the unprecedented bushfires that devastated communities in Queensland late last year.
The fires, which swept through parts of Central and North Queensland in November and early December, are the focus of the 2018 Queensland Bushfires Review being undertaken by the Inspector-General Emergency Management.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford today said an independent research company, MCR, had been engaged to survey effected Queenslanders in three main areas.
These are Eungella, Finch Hatton and Dalrymple Heights, Gracemere, near Rockhampton and Agnes Water, Baffle Creek and Deepwater.
The survey will touch on facets of the fires including public warnings and information, heatwave, evacuation, mitigation and public risk perception regarding bushfire and heatwave.
“These were unprecedented fires and we want feedback about our response to ensure we learn from it,” Mr Crawford said.
“Public safety is at the heart of this review and so it is imperative that significant efforts are undertaken to comprehensively capture views, opinions and perspectives from the recent fire events.”
Inspector-General Emergency Management Iain MacKenzie said review team members had written directly to a range of key stakeholders seeking submissions.
“It is imperative we get to hear firsthand as many of the issues and perspectives raised by public as possible, to better inform the review,” Mr MacKenzie said.
However AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said she was disappointed that AgForce had not been approached for their input into the fire response.
“We are disappointed that the Government does not consider AgForce a key stakeholder on vegetation and bushfire management.
“Even though our producers have so much to lose from bushfires, AgForce is yet to see a letter the Minister said was sent to ‘a range of key stakeholders’ asking for input.
“If the Government is serious about learning from these recent tragic bushfires and preventing a recurrence, why wouldn’t they pick up the phone to us?
“Hundreds of our members have battled for weeks, and continue to do so in Central Queensland, to save their livestock and properties from fire, in many cases fighting side by side with NPWS staff backburning in overgrown national parks.”
Ms Somerset said the government had missed the point in commissioning a survey.
“While a random phone survey may provide interesting results, it is no substitute for talking to people in regional Queensland who were directly impacted by the bushfires.
“Like any survey, the usefulness of this poll will depend on what and who is asked, and this survey appears to miss the point.
“The ‘key facets’ it will cover do not include the factors that impacted most heavily on the severity of the fires – lack of resourcing to adequately manage fuel loads in National Parks and on state land, and vegetation management laws that prevent land owners from being able to control fires on their properties.”
Green Shirts Movement Founder and Mackay Regional Councillor Martin Bella, who spent a week fighting fires around his Sarina property, said the survey was a joke.
“They’ll ask the questions they want to ask to get the answers they want to get.
“Once again it’s just second best and another kick in the guts.
“They haven’t listed to us about vegetation management and about having a parliamentary inquriy into the fires, instead they’re going the cheap option and have got a marketing company on board.”
“This is just a complete and utter whitewash of the whole thing and they’re not listening. People risked their lives and property and for every thing they went through, they get a bloody survey.”
”It’s got nothing to do with looking at the causes of the disaster.”
Mr MacKenzie said staff had attended agency and group debriefs and post-event community forums to hear first-hand public perspectives and experiences from the fires, and these would continue in the new year.
“We will continue to seek out and attend as many of these meetings as possible in the short term to achieve this goal.”
Mr MacKenzie said public submissions to the review were welcomed and encourages any member of the public affected by the fires to contribute to the review by the end of February, 2019.
“This review is about gathering facts and listening those involved so that we can further strengthen Queensland’s emergency management arrangements and practices,” Mr MacKenzie said.
Ms Somerset encouraged anyone impacted by the fires to make a public submission.
Information on how to lodge a public submission is available online at www.igem.qld.gov.au