Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Australian Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements hands down its report - recognises role of climate change in natural disasters, value of Indigenous land management knowledge & need for a permanent sovereign aerial firefighting fleet based here


The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was established on 20 February 2020 in response to the extreme bushfire season of 2019-2020 which resulted in devastating loss of life, property and wildlife, and environmental destruction across the nation.

Those fires started in Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, with much of the 23 million hectares that burnt already impacted by drought and the Forest Fire Danger Index reading the highest since national records began.

The Royal Commission delivered its final report on 28 October 2020 and this was released on 30 October 2020.

In summary the report found:

3.1 Australia’s national arrangements for coordinating disaster management are complicated — there is a plethora of frameworks, plans, bodies, committees and stakeholders, with significant variation and different degrees of implementation.

National coordination, in relation to both operational and policy considerations, is necessary because disaster management is a shared responsibility in our federation.

3.2 Effective national coordination will be a critical capability in managing natural disasters on a national scale or with national consequences. Arrangements need to be clear, robust and accountable.

3.3 Existing arrangements have grown organically over time to fill a void, and have largely served Australia well. The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), a not-for-profit company, has led on specific areas related to fire and emergency services. AFAC represents the Australian and New Zealand fire and

emergency services sector, and is primarily comprised of state and territory government fire and emergency services agencies.

3.4 National arrangements for coordinating disaster management require an overhaul so that they are equipped to cope with increasing disaster risks. Australia’s natural disaster arrangements and decision-making need to be supported by informed, strategic leadership, timely policy advice to elected officials, and a robust and accountable national coordination mechanism.

3.5 The changes to Australia’s national arrangements for coordinating disaster management that are contemplated in this chapter are substantive and structural. It has therefore been necessary to set out the current arrangements in detail. It is also necessary to do so because much of the detail was not on the public record.

The report also recognised what the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison federal government has long sought to either ignore or deny – climate change.

23. Extreme weather has already become more frequent and intense because of climate change; further global warming over the next 20 to 30 years is inevitable. Globally, temperatures will continue to rise, and Australia will have more hot days and fewer cool days. Sea levels are also projected to continue to rise. Tropical cyclones are projected to decrease in number, but increase in intensity. Floods and bushfires are expected to become more frequent and more intense. Catastrophic fire conditions may render traditional bushfire prediction models and firefighting techniques less effective.

It also recognised the significance of local knowledge and the need to engage further with Traditional Owners to explore the relationship between Indigenous land and fire management and natural disaster resilience. 

The report also made over eighty specific recommendations.

Most importantly to regions like North-East New South Wales where fire kicked off very early in the bushfire season and where we saw with our own eyes the value aerial firefighting capabilities in keeping fire out of our town and village streets, one of the recommendations contained these observations:

8.106 Australian, state and territory governments should work together to continue to improve Australia’s collective, Australian-based and operated, aerial firefighting capabilities. Though we see merit in the continued use of overseas-based aviation services and air crew in some instances, Australia’s current reliance represents a vulnerability, as demonstrated during the 2019-2020 bushfire season.

8.107 We define Australia’s sovereign aerial firefighting capability as the collective Australian-based aerial firefighting capabilities of the states and territories, supported by a national capability which is jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments. These capabilities should be maintained through procurement and contracting strategies that support the Australian-based aerial firefighting industry.

8.108 The development of a modest Australian-based and registered national fleet of VLAT/LAT aircraft and Type-1 helicopters, jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments, will enhance Australia’s bushfire resilience. A standing national fleet would ensure that the states and territories have the necessary resources to call upon during periods of high demand, without the need to reduce the operational capabilities of other jurisdictions. This standing fleet should also include situational awareness and support capabilities which may benefit from a nationally coordinated approach.

8.109 Australia’s sovereign aerial firefighting capability should be supported by ongoing research and evaluation to inform specific capability needs, and the most effective aerial firefighting strategies.

8.110 Australia’s sovereign aerial firefighting capability may be supplemented by overseas based aviation services, where additional capacity is forecast to be required and available. [my yellow highlighting]

Australian Royal Commission Into National Natural Disaster Arrangements - Report [Accessible] by clarencegirl on Scribd

Appendices to the final report can be found at 

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