Second Reading - Budget Debate
Second Reading - Budget Debate
Date:15:19 Thursday, 9 May 1996
Member:van de Klashorst, Mrs June
Subject:APPROPRIATION (CONSOLIDATED FUND) BILL (No 1) Second Reading - Budget Debate
Page:1764 / 1

People could clear the leaves around their homes and make sure that
trees are not too close. Individuals have lots of ideas and suggestions and
neighbours help each other. Land owners could clear around their properties and
neighbours could help the elderly and other people who are unable to do it
themselves. If a fire occurs their homes will be protected as much as possible.
If people go away they inform the fire leader, especially during the danger
period so that the fire leader of that community knows that nobody is in the
house and that they might have to go along to ensure that the house is
protected. Fire leaders know where elderly people are so that they may be
effectively evacuated from the area. Simple ideas can often save houses, such
as cutting long grass for 20 metres around a house, clearing away fallen leaves
and undergrowth, and trimming trees.

Each person in the street could be responsible for helping others and supporting
them, even if only in discussions. This would benefit the whole community. The
idea has been set up and is on trial. I spoke to the manager of fireguard in
Western Australia last week and talked about the disastrous fire in Chidlow. I
suggested that perhaps Chidlow would be the place to start, as people there are
very switched on to fire danger. We lost three houses there and of course one
life, which I mentioned before. People in that community would possibly be
ready to heed the advice. Perhaps because they have been close to a fire it is
a good place to start.

It was emphasised to me when I attended a community meeting that a bushfire is a
mini disaster for the people affected by it. We talk about Pannawonica or large
areas which often receive relief from local councils and other people. It is
just as much as disaster for people where a small area has been burnt out and
homes have been lost.

I wonder if we as a Government could look into the role of organising, perhaps
through the shire or community, some form of disaster relief for people,
especially in those first few weeks when some of them have no homes to go back
to and for others who have social problems because they have lost everything on
their property.

The general increase in fuel on the ground for fires in Western Australia is a
worldwide phenomenon. All over the world we seem now to be having hotter fires
than ever before. They also seem to be lasting longer. The Bush Fires Board
looks at the amount of fuel on the ground and works out how much there is. I
believe we need to get back to more controlled burning. People often feel it is
a negative, but from experience I know that it is a positive. However, it must
be done at the right time of year with the minimum amount of damage to trees and
other flora and fauna and it must be a slow burn. The right personnel with the
proper training can do this.

In east Gidgegannup my husband divided the region into five areas and every year
he and the brigade went out during the off season and burnt one-fifth of the
region. In that way they also received donations for the brigade which helped
towards its running. It also kept each area with less than four years' fuel
should a wildfire occur. Bearing in mind the devastating effect of recent
wildfires, a controlled, slow burn at the right time of year might do some
minimal damage but it would not do the damage which has occurred, especially
recently in national parks. It is maintained that in the Sydney region it will
take up to 50 years for one forest to regenerate. I am a strong advocate of
properly controlled burns under proper conditions. I want the Bush Fires Board,
the Government, the shires and volunteers to look at reinstating some positive
controlled burning programs to protect areas.

In summary, more people in the outer metropolitan area are looking for different
lifestyles, and many of them are in the Swan Hills region, although they extend
as far as Toodyay. The Bush Fires Board is working on four levels of response.
The standards it is setting include training, the depth of management within
itself and the volunteer fire brigades, and increasing levels of skills and
training. Although this is being done, we must remember that these people are
volunteers and have other jobs. This job is important but not of first
importance to them. We must ensure that local knowledge is kept to a maximum,
with people working locally knowing their area so that we always have a positive
response to fires. As a Government we need to keep up the funding to them.
People who put their lives on the line should not be fighting fires during the
summer and then trying to raise money for their own equipment during the winter.
We as a Government need to be very responsible in order to ensure that we
provide them with adequate equipment.

Capital expenditure for replacement of fire appliances and equipment rose from
$1.335m to $2.612m this year. That is a significant increase but, I hate to
tell the Minister, it is still not enough. Equipment over the past years has
become outdated and old-fashioned and has not kept up with modern technology.
It needs to be replaced. Once we provide adequate equipment for these brave
firefighters throughout the State, we need to put in place a five year program
through which we can continue to keep the equipment up to date, so that a
situation does not arise as it did previously where some of the hills brigades
drove 1930s trucks that were kept together, not by bandaids, but by fencing

I bring to the attention of the Parliament that Victoria has produced maps
putting the whole of the firefighting area across the State into grids. It
means one can look at the rural directory of each region and work out one's
exact position for communication's sake.

This work was undertaken by the Country Fire Authority Mapping Association.
When I mentioned that I was to speak on bush fires, Tony Pestell, who is the
chief fire ranger for the Shire of Swan, asked me to bring to the attention of
the Government the fact that the Department of Land Administration makes the
maps for the metropolitan area to a grid ratio that is different from bush fire
shire maps. It means that when the control stations are looking to work out
where the fires are and give grid reference numbers, they are often different
from those the Bush Fires Board work on, which is the same grid as the one I
have here. Is there any way that we as a Government could work towards
standardising grid references for all maps in Western Australia? I said that I
would bring this to the attention of the Parliament, and I promised Mr Pestell
that I would follow this up with the various Ministers.