The report from the Senate Inquiry into the terrible fires that happened in Tasmania last summer has now been released.
The inquiry looked at ‘responses to, and lessons learnt from, the January and February 2016 bushfires in remote Tasmanian wilderness’. The committee was chaired by Greens Senator Nick McKim.
Probably the key recommendation in the report is the proposal that the state and federal governments should investigate the establishment of a national remote area firefighting team. Coalition committee members dissented, saying informal and formal relationships already exist between the state and federal governments and that the Army is also brought in when needed. However the slow pace at which a number of remote area fires were tackled indicates that there was a shortage of fire fighting resources able to be deployed quickly into remote areas. The devastation of areas such as around Lake McKenzie on the Central Plateau was compounded by the delay in getting fire fighting units into the area.
The Coalition MPs on the committee also disagreed with another call in the inquiry report for Australia to report annually to the UNESCO Wilderness World Heritage committee about the state of conservation within the Tasmanian WWHA.
Other issues raised in the report include the need to ensure adequate funding of research into how climate change will influence fires in the world heritage area. For instance, the committee recommends that the Australian Government recognise the need to enhance protection and conservation efforts in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by allocating increased funding:
- to the Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania, for appropriate management activities and resources; and
- for research projects aimed at providing qualitative and quantitative data specific to climate-related and ecological threats to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (such as dry lightning strike). It appears that the frequency of dry lightning strikes has already increased in recent decades.
The final report is available here.