Bushfire summit a fizzer

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman was disappointed more regional delegates weren’t at Friday’s State Government bushfire mitigation summit.
Camera IconWarren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman was disappointed more regional delegates weren’t at Friday’s State Government bushfire mitigation summit. Credit: Danella Bevis

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman has expressed disappointment at how few regional delegates attended last Friday’s State Government bushfire mitigation summit.

The Times reported the WA Local Government Association was responsible for sending invitations to Shires and regional authorities but no Shire of Augusta-Margaret River or City of Busselton delegates were able to attend.

Mr Redman said he was “surprised and astounded” that bushfire brigades in the electorate didn’t rate an invitation to the one-off summit.

“Bushfire mitigation strategies and the proposed regional fire service are very important issues that have serious con-sequences for communities in the South West,” he said.

“I would have thought bushfire brigades in this area would be invited to contribute to such significant issues.”

In Parliament, Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said there were 66 invitations, which Mr Redman said was “disappointing ... considering there are 579 bushfire brigades, 92 volunteer fire and rescue services and 108 regional local governments”.

“This is hardly a good demonstration of accountability from a new Government on such a critical issue.”

Mr Redman also called for more regional summits.

In a media statement, Mr Logan said “some of WA’s leading voices on bushfire mitigation” had attended the summit to discuss how to address risk in the State’s bushfire-prone areas.

“The summit also demonstrated how complex the task is, with many issues falling under a range of portfolios including local government, environment, regional development, planning, lands and police,” he said.

“I also asked the attendees to consider how a rural fire service could operate, and be funded, and there were a variety of options put forward, which the whole of Government will now consider.”

A proposed rural bushfire service was also raised at the forum, despite concerns from local members the service debate would derail focus on mitigation strategies.

Mr Logan confirmed the worst fears of regional volunteers, who say a rural service isn’t needed, outlining discussion considered how such an agency could function as a sub-department of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

The Times understands the Shire’s invitation came close to the meeting date and Shire chiefs were unable to attend because of other duties.

The Western Australian Local Government Association told the Times it requested additional invitations for the local government sector after receiving a single invitation.

President Lynne Craigie said WALGA undertook “extensive consultation” with members before the summit, with its own delegates including its manager of emergency management.

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