The McGowan Government’s bushfire complacency has been laid bare by revelations the Planning Minister went against expert advice to issue a rezoning approval for an area deemed an extreme fire risk.
Documents brought to light by The Nationals WA show Planning Minister Rita Saffioti rejected the advice of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the WA Planning Commission to rezone more than 45 hectares of land near Mount Helena.
Emergency Services spokesperson Colin de Grussa said the Minister’s blatant disregard for DFES advice had potentially put lives and homes at risk.
“DFES expressed serious concerns to the Minister, saying this type of urbanisation in a bushfire prone area was something that needed to be avoided,” Mr de Grussa said.
“The advice was that it could lead to potentially unsafe and un-defendable areas of development and that the proposal would introduce families and homes to an area where a bushfire threat may not be manageable.”
Mr de Grussa said the Minister needed to explain why she rejected the advice of DFES and called on Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan to clarify his position.
“Is Minister Logan aware that his Cabinet colleague went against the prudent advice of his own agency? Does he support the Planning Minister in doing so?” Mr de Grussa said.
“The Planning Minister must also clarify if she has confidence in the WA Planning Commission, which also advised her not to grant the rezoning.”
Mr de Grussa said this latest episode again highlighted Labor’s complacency when it comes to bushfire risk after the McGowan Government ended a successful prescribed burning program, instigated by The Nationals WA while in Government.
“In 2015 Royalties for Regions provided an additional $20 million over four years to assist the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions meet the nominal 200,000 hectares prescribed burn target for the South West forest region,” Mr de Grussa said.
“This funding boost resulted in the Department achieving their best results as compared to the preceding eight years.
“By finishing the program in June 2019, the McGowan Government is showing disregard for the safety of lives and homes in bushfire prone areas and needs to heed the advice of key agencies.”
The Nationals WA – led by Warren-Blackwood MP Terry Redman – have started a petition calling on the McGowan Government to ensure the Enhanced Prescribed Burning program continues beyond June 2019.
Mr de Grussa said West Australians knew all too well the danger that bushfires pose to community safety.
“This time of year brings into sharp focus the risks that bushfire events present and we need sensible and responsible solutions to mitigate risk,” Mr de Grussa said.
“Regrettably the McGowan Government is daring to play with fire, a move which could have tragic consequences.”