The Nationals WA emergency services spokesman Colin de Grussa says the Labor Government’s capacity to improve response to fire under its Rural Fire Division model remains unclear.
Mr de Grussa, who was briefed by the Minister this week and asked further questions in Parliament, said while the new model favourably focused on mitigation programs, there was little evidence to suggest emergency response would be bolstered.
“What we see is status quo for a large proportion of operational response including several associations and organisations under the same old operations arm of the Department,” he said.
“It is unclear how the Government’s $80 million spend on the Division will bring about an improved response capacity when fire and other disasters strike regional communities.”
Mr de Grussa welcomed a renewed focus on mitigation and specialist training that will be offered through the Bushfire Centre of Excellence but maintained the Government had drained funding from other important areas of mitigation.
“I support $15 million of Royalties for Regions extending the Mitigation Activity Fund for local governments, but that won’t make up for the $20 million Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program being discontinued after the next financial year,” he said.
“The Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program accelerated the State’s ability to meet burning targets across our vast expanse of national parks, State forest and reserves.
“In fact it helped clear out a major backlog of our fuel load reduction task and resulted in some of the highest prescribed burning targets being met in almost 30 years, helping protect communities and the environment against bushfire disasters.”
Mr de Grussa said he would continue to seek information on how the spread of volunteer groups, brigades and units would fit in the new Division structure.
“I’m buoyed by the introduction of volunteer liaison officers and a volunteer advisory committee to improve communications between emergency responders,” he said.
“We have escaped with two consecutive years of relatively low bushfire incidents. The true test will come when an inevitable fire disaster breaks out in regional WA and how the Division responds.”