The Legislative Council Inquiry into the 2013 Wambeling Fire results has been released with 29 recommendations for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Rural Fire Service, and the NSW State Government. The 224 page report focuses on communication between and within services, trails and fencing, fuel load minimisation by controlled burn offs and a more streamlined process for obtaining public liability insurance payments from the government. The report also reccomends that Warrumbungle Shire Council be reimbursed over half a million dollars promised to the council by the NSW State Government, but was not paid.
The report notes disappointment in having to delay releasing its findings due to the Coronial Inquiry also taking place at the same time, the results of which still have not been made public.
Here are the summary recommendations
That the NSW Government commit to and fund a long term program of prescribed burning
based on the recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission of an annual
rolling target of a minimum of five per cent of public land per year, and that the NSW
Government commit to extending the funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service five
year hazard reduction program past 2016.
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service establish a regime of frequent mosaic burning
within the Warrumbungle National Park, where conditions permit, to be monitored and
evaluated via a formal fully funded research program. This program should then inform the
Service’s approach to the wider national park estate.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service, in collaboration with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife
Service, review and improve the system of bush fire management zones to ensure that greater
priority is given to hazard reduction on land classified within land management zones.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service:
streamline the regulatory system for hazard reduction burns, including the permit
system, in order to identify and remove any unnecessary impediments to timely,
planned hazard reduction burning
improve accountability in relation to the implementation of bush fire risk
management plans as a means of delivering more hazard reduction.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service develop and implement a comprehensive community education
campaign aimed at increasing community understanding of and support for hazard reduction
That the NSW Rural Fire Service investigate mechanisms to enhance the predictability of
megafires and how this information is communicated easily to the public.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service review the decision not to construct additional fire trails in the
Warrumbungle National Park following the Wambelong fire.
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, at the direction of the NSW Rural Fire
Service, enhance the network of fire trails within national parks across New South Wales by:
reopening those fire trails that have been closed within the last ten years
establishing new fire trails where appropriate
providing sufficient fire vehicle turning areas
ensuring adequate fire trail maintenance over the long term.
That the NSW Government improve the protection of media and telecommunications towers
around New South Wales by:
increasing the asset protection zone around the towers on Mt Cenn Cruaich and
other comparable sites to a radius of at least 100 metres
conducting an audit of all New South Wales media and telecommunications sites to
examine their fire safety in respect of land clearance, fire trails and fuel loads
implementing a strategy to ensure that licensees of these sites fulfil all their hazard
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service examine its staffing policy for periods of
extreme and catastrophic weather conditions to ensure that sufficient staff are available on site on
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service consider the feasibility, on a case by case
basis, of closing public roads through national parks on days with catastrophic fire danger rating,
to mitigate the risk of bush fire ignition in national parks.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service investigate
the cost and feasibility of installing infrared cameras at the Siding Springs Observatory and key
sites in other national parks to facilitate fire spotting.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service:
alter the standard procedures for Remote Aerial Response Teams to enable them to
operate at night
in conjunction with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, enhance the
capability of both Remote Aerial Response Teams and Remote Area Firefighting
Teams to fight fires at any time including at night.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service:
commission an independent investigation into the allegations that brigade group
captains and captains were not duly, or in a timely way, notified of the outbreak of
the Wambelong fire
improve procedures for the notification of group captains to ensure that they are
notified of any fire outbreak in and/or adjoining their brigade areas.
Recommendation 15 122
That the NSW Government, as a matter of urgency, amend the Rural Fires Act 1997 to codify the
current interim arrangements for command and notification requirements for class 1 and class 2
fires, which clarify that the NSW Rural Fire Service or Fire and Rescue NSW:
have ultimate responsibility for all bush fires regardless of tenure
are responsible for the appointment of incident controllers
are responsible for keeping the public informed.
That the NSW Government consider enabling the default position during catastrophic and
extreme fire danger periods to be the same as for section 44 fires, so that fire control centres
have the same systems and resources ready to deploy should a fire break out.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service review its procedures, systems and infrastructure for notifying
community members of bush fires, both when a fire has broken out and as it proceeds, to ensure
the provision of timely and adequate information.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service, in order to ensure greater respect for volunteer fire fighters’
knowledge and experience in the management of fires:
examine its plans of operations to provide for the use of local knowledge at every
level of decision making down the chain of command
require a local fire fighter to be stationed in every command vehicle, where possible
ensure that every out of area crew includes at least one local fire fighter
require officers to engage more effectively and regularly with volunteers during the
periods between fires
consider any further strategies to address the entrenched conflict between officers
and volunteers, including additional ways to empower volunteers and utilise them
That the NSW Rural Fire Service formally recognise the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association as a
legitimate advocacy organisation representing volunteer bush fire fighters, and duly consult with
it on policy and operational matters.
That the Minister for Police and Emergency Services examine the feasibility of relocating the
NSW Rural Fire Service headquarters to a rural or regional location.
That the NSW Rural Fire Service reassess the protection of pastoral assets during bush fires to
ensure that priority for protection is not simply afforded to the homestead, and that land holders
are, within reason, able to request which of their own assets are protected.
That the Minister for Police and Emergency Services review the communications technologies
used by the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW, the NSW National Parks and
Wildlife Service and Forestry NSW during fire fighting operations, to ensure that systems are
standardised and effective. Within this context, the potential value of satellite phone technology
should be investigated.
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service adopt an interim fencing agreement in the
immediate aftermath of a fire. This will enable emergency and interim works to commence, but
features such as length, fencing components and site of the fence line are not binding. A final
fencing agreement would be negotiated no earlier than six months following a major national
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service:
ensure that where a park is adjacent to a rural land holding, its side of the boundary
fence is cleared to the same legislative requirement as the land holding, that is, six
examine the fairness of the policy whereby, in the event of a fire originating on
national park land, the Service provides the fencing materials to construct or replace
boundary fences, while the neighbour erects the fences.
That the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service remove from its boundary fencing policy and
standard contract the condition that requires adjoining land owners to maintain a fence that has
been damaged by trees falling from national park land.
That the Office of State Revenue investigate mechanisms to enhance the affordability of
insurance for properties and assets in fire affected areas.
That the NSW Government take all reasonable steps to expedite the process of establishing any
legal liability for the losses incurred by property owners as a result of the Wambelong fire, and in
the event that it is found liable, expedite the process of paying compensation claims.
That the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services and NSW Treasury:
reimburse the Warrumbungle Shire Council for the NSW Government’s share of the
remaining shortfall of $528,000 in funds pledged to the recovery process
consider how the process for claiming funds pledged by state government
representatives in future disasters and emergencies can be streamlined.
That the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services urgently review its policies for the provision
of disaster welfare services to ensure that in the event of a bush fire emergency and the
declaration of a fire under section 44 of the Rural Fires Act 1997, adequate funding and services,
especially recovery centres and mental health services, are provided for an adequate length of
time, with gradual transition to normal service delivery when those services are no longer