Barr calls on Commonwealth for disaster funding overhaul and support for Namadgi recovery costs

Dominic Giannini 10 July 2020 8
Orroral Valley fire. Namadgi National Park Photo: Michael Weaver, Region Media

Almost 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park was burnt during the Orroral Valley fire. Photo: Region Media.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has called for an overhaul of the Commonwealth’s Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA), saying the scheme’s rollout was convoluted, inefficient and delayed support during the recent summer’s bushfires.

The “timeliness, complexity, scope and quantum” of the cost-sharing arrangements between the Federal Government and states and territories were a concern for the ACT, Mr Barr said in a submission provided to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (also known as the bushfire royal commission).

“Reviewing and updating the DRFA to make it more practical and responsive during prolonged and changing disasters across multiple jurisdictions is one practical step governments can take,” Mr Barr said.

“The 2019-20 bushfire disaster has highlighted that many government systems and structures that have served us well in the past may no longer be suitable for responding to the emergencies this country faces.

“The DRFA, which has been suitable after previous disasters, proved cumbersome and challenging to implement in these particular circumstances.”

Mr Barr also called on the Commonwealth Government to help with the recovery costs for the Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve which were impacted by the Orroral Valley fire.

The royal commission heard that the DRFA did not allow the money to be used for environmental restoration, which will leave a substantial hole in the ACT’s budget after 78 per cent of Namadgi and 22 per cent of Tidbinbilla were burnt.

“Despite a number of successful conservation measures put in place to limit the loss of wildlife and sensitive sites in the park, the ecological damage and environmental impact have been extensive,” Mr Barr said.

ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan, Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman and Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan (left), Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman (centre) and Chief Minister Andrew Barr (right) fronting the press during the Orroral Valley fire. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

“Protecting the National Park including the Cotter River catchment, ACT’s primary water supply, from further damage and supporting its recovery will be a significant and expensive task that will need to be undertaken jointly with the Australian Government.”

Government documents say “initial investment has been secured from the commonwealth with an estimated total environmental recovery cost of up to $25 million”. However, the ACT Government will also pursue the Commonwealth for compensation after the landing light of an army helicopter was found to have started the Orroral Valley fire.

In her testimony to the royal commission, the Secretary of Tasmania’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, Jenny Gale, said that the ineligibility of environmental restoration under the DRFA would leave the state to take a responsibility to replant and replenish [the environment]”.

“At the moment the DRFA does not acknowledge or enable us to actually look into that,” she said.

“We think there is value in protecting and funding recovery of environmental and cultural heritage experiences.”

The ACT Government submission also called on the royal commission to review the circumstances and thresholds under which the states and territories can call on the Australian Government for support during an emergency. Mr Barr called the current criteria “somewhat unclear”.

Resources and emergency infrastructure that would be called upon could include emergency alerts and warnings, the Australian Defence Force and aerial firefighting appliances. Canberra could also be used as a strategic hub for aerial assets that are operating across south-east Australia, Mr Barr suggested.

However, longer-term plans for Australia’s aerial firefighting capability need to be implemented as longer bushfire seasons make it harder to borrow resources and lease equipment from overseas as fire seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres begin to overlap, Mr Barr said.

The lengthening of the fire seasons led the Chief Minister to request the royal commission to look at climate change mitigation strategies.

“It will not be possible for state and territory land management agencies to adapt to the climate-influenced increase in fire risk without strong national leadership and investment in research, and a commitment to maintaining a national research capability currently in place through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre,” he said.


What's Your Opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
8 Responses to Barr calls on Commonwealth for disaster funding overhaul and support for Namadgi recovery costs
rationalobserver rationalobserver 11:07 am 12 Jul 20

3 points;
No sane person would raise the topic of Defence force help in the same breath as raising the possibility of a law suite because their helicopter started a fire.
Why bother to rehabilitate anything without addressing the fire management regimes and national park paradigms which allowed it to burn so badly to begin with.
It’s OK, the weeds that infested the place before the fire will return.

Maureen Jackson Maureen Jackson 8:14 am 11 Jul 20

Has any of it recovered?

    Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 9:21 am 11 Jul 20

    Maureen Jackson very very slow and storms washed a lot of topsoil away.

    Maureen Jackson Maureen Jackson 9:48 am 11 Jul 20

    Kerry Jackson a great shame. Any plans to try to restore?

Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 9:33 pm 10 Jul 20

Sensible submission. And good to see we are seeking compensation for that ADF helicopter that caused the fire

    Simon Lynch Simon Lynch 12:41 pm 11 Jul 20

    I'd check the facts first Kerry. At the time there was no fire in ACT and yet your wonderful Administration hired the helicopter from the ADF essentially for a PR exercise. They shouldn't have asked for it in the first place let alone have the hide to claim compensation for their stuff up. It shouldn't have been there in the first place as there was no threat to the ACT at the time. Don't forget that if the ACT Government hadn't hired it in the first place there would have been no fire. Political spiel at its best but I guess that's what Government's do best to cover up their shortcomings. Here's some video produced by the ACT Government as my evidence - https://www.facebook.com/actemergencyservicesagency/videos/584376192406931/?hc_location=ufi

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 1:47 am 13 Jul 20

    Simon Lynch I'd suggest you need to go check your own facts first champ. Based on your thinking, the ACT should ignore fires in NSW until they are in the ACT. They did that in 03... Good result ey.

Andrew Schaff Andrew Schaff 9:03 pm 10 Jul 20

Perhaps a local helicopter operator could be funded to provided a permanent presence in the ACT?

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top

Search across the site