The Queensland Government has released the review into the 2019 fires at Sarabah, Perigian and Stanthorpe - and the findings indicate that bushfire mitigation in National Parks will be ‘business as usual’ despite the outcry.
The review, conducted internally by the Inspector-General Emergency Management (IGEM), makes four recommendations, three of which the Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, Craig Crawford, says it has already implemented.
State member for Scenic Rim Jon Krause disagrees. He lashed the report, saying it was always going to come out in favour of the government.
“The IGEM report on the fires last year is a crock and classic case of Caesar judging Caesar,” Mr Krause said.
“I’d like to know how many firies they spoke to.
“Only five submissions were made and only three were by individuals.
“To be honest, the firies would have still been fighting fires when the submissions closed.
“We should have had an open inquiry so people could give evidence in an open forum.”
Instead, he said, the report is just an example of a “department writing reports for themselves.”
“Who are the stakeholders mentioned in the review if there were only five submissions?”
“It is a disgrace if this is being presented as a full report on the Sarabah-Canungra fires.
“It’s insulting to the people who were directly affected by the fire and to those who fought it.”
He said with such meager public input on the review, they were forced to go to the wider community with a survey, which focused on the wrong area.
The survey queried people on their perceptions on things such as communication and fire knowledge.
“It makes it look like there has been a lot more public input.
“Survey results of the knowledge of council’s role in managing fire emergencies such as the Canungra-Sarabah fires shows there is very poor knowledge about who is in charge.”
The recommendations the government says it already has fixes in place for are the following:
- Queensland's plan and arrangements for heatwave should be reviewed to provide for an integrated multi-agency approach to the management. A single agency should lead and oversee this process.
- Wherever possible, the antecedents that will lead to catastrophic fire weather conditions existing for a particular area should be identified and documented within the fire management plan relevant to the area.
- Clear public messaging regarding risks (if any) from the use of suppressants, including to 'organic' producers, should be developed and socialised before the next fire season and be readily available for dissemination when needed.
The one recommendation the government says it has met the intention of is:
- The ability to share, analyse, interrogate and display information from disparate entities should be progressed as a matter of some urgency.
In announcing the completion of the review, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the findings showed Queensland’s preparedness and response was highly effective in saving property and reducing the severity of fires at Stanthorpe, Sarabah and Peregian Springs.
“[The review] highlighted strong and continuous enhancement in the state’s bushfire preparedness, mitigation and overall firefighting response.
“The 2019 Review found examples of good practice implemented by state and local agencies including integration of the State Emergency Service (SES) in the bushfire response,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“With SES workers trained to replenish waterbombers, aircraft were able to return to the skies within three minutes.
“This was a phenomenal response to extraordinary conditions.”
While the Premier said that more than a million hectares throughout the state were control-burned last year to manage fire risk and less than two per cent of Queensland's 2019 bushfires started in national parks, the types of fires which were included in the percentage wasn’t defined nor the hectarage of private and public land burnt out as a result of the bushfires starting in or burning through national parks.
Minister Crawford said pre-season mitigation burns helped save Stanthorpe.
“What this report shows us is targeted burns around community assets are highly-effective,” Mr Crawford said.
“Predictive technology forecast the Stanthorpe fire would put the town in danger, but with containment lines in place, the blaze was stopped.
“The State Operations Centre was also supported by Queensland Police Service, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Ambulance Service liaison officers, facilitating proactive inter-agency cooperation.
“We pride ourselves on a culture of continuous improvement in Queensland to ensure our disaster management arrangements remain world-class and keep our communities safe.
“We continue to look for further enhancements, particularly with fireground radio communications and more integration of liaison officers.”