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Well it’s a smokey morning in Sydney, thousands of firefighters are still working hard and about a hundred fires are still burning with many out of control. I’ve been following the news here in Italy.
If indeed hundreds of homes have been lost, this could very well be the most damaging fires in the state’s history and I would expect there to be strong pressure for the Government to establish some sort of inquiry. So I’ve pulled together some information on past fires in NSW and some of the inquiries that they triggered. The data is taken from the COAG Bushfire Inquiry, a few RFS publications, the Insurance Council’s disaster statistics and my own lists of disaster inquiries.
In terms of property loss and insured loss the worst bushfire disaster in the State’s history was the 1993-94 fires that destroyed 206 homes. These fires killed four people and led to three separate inquiries. Since then there have been ten separate audits, inquiries and reviews into bushfires in NSW. There’s also been numerous federal inquiries and in other jurisdictions which have driven policy change in NSW. The most deadly bushfire in NSW’s history was the 1968-69 fires which killed 14 people and also destroyed 161 homes. I hope all the lessons we’ve learned through these fires and inquiries will not lead to a toll that high.
And the Australian fire season still has a long way to go. Click here to look at the full table as a google spreadsheet.
Other Bushfire related inquiries
1996 – Audit of New South Wales Fire Brigades : fire prevention
1998 – Audit of The Coordination of Bushfire Fighting Activities
2000 – Parliamentary Inquiry into the NSW Rural Fire Service
2001 – Follow up of Performance Audits: Coordination of bushfire fighting activities
2003 – Coronial Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Fire(s) in the Brindabella Range in January 2003
2004 – Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Services Funding
2005 – Statutory Review of the Rural Fires Act 1997
2009 – Review of Bushfire Arson Laws
I’ve been working on analysing recommendations from the list of disaster inquiries I’ve put together. At the moment I’ve come up with a list of keywords.
Here are the top 10 (note the analyser does it on a word root basis, so all plurals and forms are included):
Well it’s been two months since I posted my last update and the Climate Change and Emergency Preparedness Inquiry is in full swing. As I suspected the reporting date has been extended to the 26th of June (and even that date is still rather ambitious). There are now 338 submissions (most of the new ones being from individuals) and hearings have been held in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth (the transcripts are available online). Hearings in Sydney and Canberra are scheduled for the next couple of days. I have only skimmed through the content of the hearings and there’s some interesting reading, but I’ll leave it to the inquiry to sum them up in its report.
In a previous post, I’ve attempted to catalogue all the disaster related inquiries in Australia since the year 2000. In the course of collecting that list I naturally came across a range of lists and other information on disaster inquiries and commissions that pre-date that. I’m collating that information in this post.
Over 150 submissions have been received for the Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events and they’re still coming. No doubt the recent bushfires and floods have intensified interest in the inquiry. I have doubts that the inquiry will be able to report by its current deadline of 20 March. Likewise I suspect that more hearings might be added to the three that have been currently announced.
In this final instalment of my series on the Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events Inquiry I’ll address the remaining terms of reference in a roundabout way. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 here. The remaining terms deal with Australia’s overall response to climate change adaptation and national coordination of risk management. I want to address the impact of climate change on severe weather events being far from the only climate impact relevant to emergency management; climate change adaptation being far from the only emerging challenge in emergency management; and the interconnectedness of many current and emerging threats for Australia and the world.
(f) progress in developing effective national coordination of climate change response and risk management, including legislative and regulatory reform, standards and codes, taxation arrangements and economic instruments;
(g) any gaps in Australia’s Climate Change Adaptation Framework and the steps required for effective national coordination of climate change response and risk management; and
(h) any related matter.
Further submissions have come in in the past week or so and I move onto the fifth instalment in my series on the extreme weather trends and emergency preparedness senate inquiry. See part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. This term of reference relates to federalism and emergency management:
(e) the current roles and effectiveness of the division of responsibilities between different levels of government (federal, state and local) to manage extreme weather events;
The division of emergency management responsibilities is a product of Australia’s history of federalism. I’m going to try and restrict this discussion to just responsibilities and ignore the role money has to play in federalism and emergency management through vertical fiscal imbalance and horizontal fiscal inequity.