Sampson Flat and Tantanoola Bushfires


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (18:19 ): I seek indulgence, Deputy Speaker, because I think at the moment one of the things that came out of question time today, or actually just before question time, is of very significant concern to my community—and this is, effectively, an adjournment debate, I suppose—and that is the outcome of the significant AFAC report into the Sampson Flat bushfires earlier this year. Of course, the report also dealt with the Tantanoola fires of January.

I have spoken previously in the house on a number of occasions about the impact that those fires had on my community, in particular, in the township of Cudlee Creek. I know that the people of Cudlee Creek were impacted very harshly, and a number of them lost property, sheds and livestock, as did other surrounding townships such as Paracombe, Chain of Ponds, Millbrook and Ironbank.

The contribution made by our CFS firefighters, locally and from around the state, and indeed from interstate, in protecting those properties and houses was significant. I focus on Cudlee Creek because it was the centre of so many of the people in my community who were the most affected. People lost hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property.

I remember visiting a couple of my constituents and hearing their hearts tear as they spoke about the history of the property they had lost, including their sheds, and the ferocity of the flames. We saw a television that had melted down somebody's hill. It was extraordinary that there were not more houses taken. Too many were, and my heart goes out to all those who lost their homes. There was only one lost in the electorate of Morialta, but many more sheds and other pieces of property. There was huge personal loss and a huge loss of income, but gratitude to all of those volunteers who did so much.

In relation to the handling of the matter by the CFS, the volunteers and paid staff did terrific work. However, it is appropriate, when you do have a situation where 27 homes are destroyed or damaged beyond habitation, 146 other structures destroyed, five businesses affected, 30 vehicles destroyed—although thankfully no loss of life—to look in great detail as to how the incident was managed and see what can be learned and what might have been done better.

In this case, there were 18 recommendations in this report, and I wish to put those 18 recommendations on the record. We heard some of the government's response from the minister today. The minister indicated that 'the recommendations require a whole-of-government response and will be considered by the government next month'. I assume that the minister means in the next month, or perhaps he has set his timetable as by October. The recommendations are:

Recommendation 1

Incorporate in operational doctrine the ability for the State Controller to determine the operational readiness levels of the state or regions based on either the predicted and/or actual risk and/or activity to some or all of the regions.

Recommendation 2

Incorporating 'triggers' within Chief Officers Standing Orders No. 17, which requires the escalation of the State Controller role to the rank of Assistant Chief Officer or greater, depending on the increased rick or activity.

Recommendation 3

Reviewing how Regional resources are managed and tracked and incorporate into COSO's to ensure that there is complete situational awareness as to the location and tasking of CFS resources.

Recommendation 4

That the Emergency Management Australia's 'Arrangements for Interstate Assistance (Fire and Emergency Services)' be applied to all future requests for assistance by the SACFS, SAMFS and SASES.

Recommendation 5

Noting the implementation of Common Incident Command and Control System...in SA that fire and emergency services together with police (including through AFAC and ANZPAA), continue to liaise regarding the development of a national incident management.

Recommendation 6

That a complete review of current naming conventions of personnel and centres, in accordance with the outcomes of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission is undertaken, to ensure clarity around command, control and coordination within SA.

Recommendation 7

That future declarations be undertaken to ensure that the areas affected by the declaration are clear and concise.

Recommendation 8

That SACFS conduct a review of SIMT with a view to increasing the number of teams from four to six, aligning them with each of the six regions within SA.

Recommendation 9

Plan the establishment of one multi-agency Coordination Centre with sufficient capacity and capability to deal with all incidents in South Australia.

Recommendation 10

Review all current SACFS operational facilities (Group, ICC, the RCC and SCC) to provide more effective communications, connectivity and resource management.

Recommendation 11

Review the communication and request procedures within SACFS to ensure that the most effective chain of command and line of communications are established between the Incident Management Team, region and state.

Recommendation 12

SACFS appoint the Regional Controller and/or Coordinator as the IC [Instant Controller] for any Level 3 incident occurring within their Region to provide better continuity and improved coordination. The position of the regional controller and/or coordinator could then be backfilled by a suitably qualified individual as required.

Recommendation 13

Review the current practice of issuing an 'emergency alert' telephone message or an emergency warning and/or watch and act alert to ensure that it is consistent, relevant and necessary. Prior to issuing an emergency alert message, consider state level involvement so that other agencies are made aware of message and intent.

Recommendation 14

SACFS and the BoM [Bureau of Meteorology] review current weather, fuel loads and curing rates to determine the most appropriate and accurate forecast is prepared, issued and validated against current conditions.

Recommendation 15

That SACFS consider the Traffic Management Procedures and guiding principles adopted in Tasmania as a model that could be implemented within SA.

Recommendation 16

That SACFS in consultation with SAMFS consider adopting common terminology and capability requirements for strike teams being '4-5 appliances and a group officer' in line with other jurisdictions.

Recommendation 17

That SACFS consider a review to develop an effective interagency messaging system and agency resource management system.

Recommendation 18

Review relevant legislation associated Acts and Plans to establish a consistent approach to fire and emergency management to minimise duplication and risk of contradiction. That the Hazard and Functional area plans be amalgamated and establish a SA Bushfire Plan, under the SEMP, which clearly define role of SACFS.

This report was tabled today, so the opposition will be having a look at in great detail at all of the impacts of the report. It is important that these 18 recommendations receive full consideration. We will also be contemplating whether there is anything else that we think should be considered as well. Ultimately, there are two significant reasons why this so important; why I am really happy that the Attorney has opened up the opportunity to talk about it tonight.

Firstly, all of those people who suffered through the Sampson Flat bushfires and the Tantanoola bushfires earlier this year—but obviously the Sampson Flat bushfires were the ones relevant to my community—as they put their lives back together they come together as a community. They have worked so hard but they need answers, and they deserve answers as to why things were done the way they were done, how everything happened and for what purpose. To ensure that where stock, vehicles or property have been lost—and, potentially, that might be avoidable if things were handled a different way or if some of these recommendations were implemented. We might not be in such danger in the future if those matters are taken into account. That is important for my community and for all of those affected communities.

The second reason, which is perhaps even more important, is that in the future we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure that life, property, livestock, animals and our communities are protected. We need to ensure that the appropriate responses to these recommendations are undertaken so that our community may be better served and everything that is possible to be done to protect our communities is done.

I am very pleased that we have this report finally. The government may take until the end of October to respond. I hope they beat the time line that is set out in the ministerial statement today. I would love to see a response early, but obviously it needs to be the right response and the appropriate response, and for those agencies that are contributing to those responses I wish them well in the work they are doing. My community relies on them to do that work well.

As the member for Morialta, I will continue in this place, as fire danger season approaches this year and every year, to do everything I can to ensure that our emergency services, our volunteers, our staff and our emergency services infrastructure have everything they need to protect our community.