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The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to fulfilling its 2010 election promise to implement all 67 recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC).
In July 2012, the Coalition Government welcomed the independent report from the Bushfire Implementation Monitor, Neil Comrie AO APM, which outlined the Coalition Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the VBRC.
At the time of Mr Comrie’s report, 35 VBRC recommendations were completed, along with hundreds of implementation actions across government departments and agencies.
Some of the biggest achievements to date include the establishment of the Bushfire Buy-back Scheme and the formation of a $750 million package over 10 years to reduce the risks of electricity assets causing bushfires.
To ensure there is continued independent oversight of implementation actions, the Coalition Government has extended the role of the Implementation Monitor for a further two years until 30 September 2014.
In the 2012-13 Victorian State Budget, the Coalition Government invested $33 million to deliver more security for people living in bushfire-prone areas and boost the state’s capacity to combat bushfires.
This includes an investment of:
- $20.6 million allocated to implement the second phase of the Coalition Government’s Bushfire Buy-back Scheme, which can be used to voluntarily acquire properties in unacceptably high bushfire risk areas from eligible landowners who want to relocate;
- $2 million for the development of Community Fire Refuges in areas where there was no suitable Neighbourhood Safer Place location; and
- $10.4 million over four years for the establishment of the Vulnerable People in Emergencies Program, an important initiative that will equip local councils with the resources needed to identify vulnerable people in the community and establish a suitable mechanism to store, access and update their information.
Achievements and policies implemented
- Extended the role of the Bushfire Royal Commission Implementation Monitor for a further two years until 30 September 2014.
- Amended the Sale of Land Act 1962 that requires a vendor’s statement to disclose when land is in a bushfire-prone area. This implemented recommendation 53 of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
- Released the first State Bushfire Plan, which provides an overarching view of the responsibilities of agencies, government and communities in bushfire management. The plan reflects an integrated approach and shared responsibility for bushfire management between government, agencies, communities and individuals.
- Instituted a number of arson prevention and detection strategies, including the Victorian Fire Investigation Inter-Agency Agreement, providing greater productivity and efficiency, increased detection and apprehension, improved intelligence sharing and improved reporting rates.
- Launched Operation Firesetter during the 2011-12 fire season which incorporated a broad range of arson crime prevention activities.
- Construction commences on Kinglake health centre. The Victorian Coalition Government provided a grant of $550,000 to Murrindindi Shire Council to construct the permanent Kinglake Health Centre.
- The Fire Recovery Unit continues to help communities build their capacity and leadership skills, and work with councils on the delivery of important recovery projects.
- The Government announced in late 2012 the winning private sector consortia that will build and operate the new $28 million Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre at Marysville. Drawing on a $19 million commitment by the Victorian Government, the project will provide a significant economic fillip to the local and broader regional economy, including supporting 85 new full time equivalent jobs over the construction period and at least 60 new full time jobs in the community within five years.
- The $5.2 million Marysville and Triangle Economic Recovery Package is currently being implemented, including the centrepiece low interest loans package aimed at helping existing businesses to rebuild or new businesses to set up in Marysville and the Triangle region.
- The Bushfire Response Planning Unit manages the Rebuilding Advisory Service, and provides advice and assistance to people navigating the planning and building system who are building in bushfire-risk areas. The free Rebuilding Advisory Service has been extended to 30 June 2013, and will be reviewed prior to this time.
- In 2012, the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Panel announced a $9.3 million package of support services to assist individuals and communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires with their medium and long-term recovery.
- The Bushfire Safety Policy Framework contributes to building a safer and more resilient community from the risk of bushfire. The Framework has been comprehensively reviewed, focusing on integration of the policy into stakeholder organisations’ approach to bushfire safety and business activities, and is available on the Fire Services Commissioner’s website.
- In the 2012-13 State Budget, a further $20.6 million was allocated to implement the second phase of the Buy-back Scheme for the voluntary acquisition of properties destroyed by the bushfires of early 2009. The 2011-12 State Budget included $5 million for the first stage of the program. 197 applications were received for the Scheme. To date, 101 landowners have agreed to proceed with the sale and the State is in the process of acquiring their properties.
- 50 new automated fire danger rating signs in high risk areas have been rolled out across Victoria for this fire season. The signs can be activated remotely and feature an LED variable message display for important bushfire safety messages. These signs will improve visibility for motorists and safety for CFA volunteers who previously had to manually adjust the older style signs.
- On 28 August 2012 the Coalition Government released details of the new property-based levy model to fund Victoria's fire services, as part of the most significant state-based tax reform in decades. The new levy will ensure that all Victorian property owners contribute fairly for fire services, so that fire services continue to operate with sufficient resources.
- The Coalition Government has established a Fire Services Levy Monitor so that insurance policy holders, property owners and those eligible for concessions are fully informed about the reforms.
- The planned burning program will receive an additional $35.1 million to scale up the program to 250,000 hectares in 2012-13. The final treated area for planned burning for the 2011-12 financial year was approximately 197,000 hectares the largest area achieved in decades.
- The Landscaping for Bushfire: Garden Design and Plant Selection Guide was launched at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2012. The guide provides the community with guidance material on fire-resistant landscape and garden design, including a list of fire-resistant species.
- The CFA has developed an enhanced action-orientated Community Information Guide - Bushfire template. All pre-existing Township Protection Plans, covering approximately 460 locations, have been updated into this format.
- The Vulnerable People in Emergencies Program received $10.4 million in the 2012-13 State Budget for activities over the next four years. The Vulnerable People in Emergencies Program will facilitate proactive emergency planning at the municipal, community and individual level to support vulnerable people and enable the establishment of a vulnerable persons register for use in emergencies.
- Municipal Emergency Management Plans have been reviewed and updated to include community organisations working with vulnerable people and facilities where vulnerable people may be present and made available to Victoria Police.
- $11.3 million for the establishment of the Municipal Fire and Emergency Management Resourcing Program to ensure that Victorian councils are better placed to prepare for and respond to future emergency and natural disaster events that include, but are not limited to, bushfires.
- $5 million Fire Ready Communities program, funded through the Regional Growth Fund, is helping to build resilience and prepare for a safer future through funding local initiatives to improve preparation, fire awareness and education.
- In response to recommendations 27 and 32 of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, the Coalition Government directed Energy Safe Victoria to establish the Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce to investigate and advise the Government on the full range of options to mitigate the risk of electricity assets causing bushfires and quantify the benefits and costs.
- The Coalition Government accepted all the recommendations of this Taskforce and is implementing a package of up to $750 million over 10 years that will reduce the risk of electricity assets causing bushfires by 64 per cent:
- $500 million is marked for new safety equipment, funded by electricity distribution businesses;
- up to $200 million for targeted replacement of some lines with underground or insulated overhead cable;
- $40 million to mitigate hardship concerns arising from powerline bushfire reduction measures; and
- $10 million for further research and development of cost-effective ways to further reduce bushfire risk.
- The Coalition Government has committed $13 million to assist councils in establishing Neighbourhood Safer Places and other bushfire shelter options in high bushfire risk areas.
- A total of 261 Neighbourhood Safer Places were established by 25 January 2013.
- Victoria is leading the development of community fire refuges in Australia. The Victorian Coalition Government has allocated $3.5 million to support the establishment of community fire refuges and to the operation of a refuges pilot program.
- Victoria’s Community Fire Refuges policy, released by the Fire Services Commissioner on 13 October 2011, delivers on the recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission that the State release a new refuges policy. It provides the framework for identifying, establishing, managing and maintaining community fire refuges in areas of very high risk where other bushfire survival options are limited.
- Community Fire Refuges will be piloted at three sites in the Yarra Ranges as the Coalition Government continues to implement measures to better prepare Victoria for the threat of bushfires. The pilot sites are at primary school campuses in the high-risk communities of East Warburton, Millgrove and Ferny Creek.
- Victoria has introduced the new Use of Sirens for Brigade and Community Alerting policy and guidelines. These will establish certainty around the use of sirens as an additional tool for emergency services to communicate with local communities and alert them about nearby emergencies. The new policy means community sirens, including existing CFA Brigade sirens, can be used as part of Victoria’s warning system for all hazards – including flood, fire and storm.
- A pilot of the new sirens systems approach is being undertaken in 39 high-risk Victorian communities over the 2012/13 summer season. As at 25 January 2013, more than 30 sirens were activated for community alerting in the Dandenong Ranges and in a number of other high risk areas across the State as part of the pilot.