Climate change bushfire risk: 60 councils attend forum


Source: Manly Daily

More than 60 local councils met today to devise strategies to combat longer, hotter and more intense bushfire seasons. Picture: Mick Tsikas

More than 60 local councils met today to devise strategies to combat longer, hotter and more intense bushfire seasons. Picture: Mick Tsikas

Climate change bushfire risk: 60 councils attend forum 

Fire seasons are getting longer and hotter, and it’s time for everybody to pull their weight.

That is the message from former NSW Fire & Rescue Commissioner and Climate Councillor Greg Mullins.

Mr Mullins will speak at a forum today — attended by 60 councils from across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania — aimed at developing new strategies to combat intense bushfire seasons due to climate change.

Among the possible strategies are a crack down on enforcement for people in bushfire prone areas who fail to maintain and clear their property.

Former Commissioner of NSW Fire and Rescue, Greg Mullins.

Mr Mullins rescuing a family pet during the 1994 Christmas bushfires in Terry Hills.

“I’ve been fighting fires for 50 years,” Mr Mullins, who recently returned from a fire at Inverell, said.

“What I have noticed is fire season is getting longer and hotter, and there are more heatwaves.

“Warmer winters mean more evaporation making the bush drier and fires more intense.

“There are also more dry lightning storms and winds are stronger.”

Huge flames during out-of-control bushfire at Phegans Bay on the Central Coast on January 1 2006. Picture: Bill O'Brien

He said in 2018, emergency bushfire warnings were being issued across NSW in early August.

“That should have been in October,” he said. “It’s happening more and more.

“Tasmania’s bushfire season also started two months earlier and places that have never burned are now burning.”

The forum, hosted by the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, called on councils to help protect their communities.

Mt White NRMA depot and service station was destroyed in the 1994 bushfires.

Strategies outlined include educating communities on the increased bushfire risk, using bushfire risk maps to make informed planning decisions and “rigorously enforcing” local laws on maintaining firebreaks, low vegetation and property clearing.

Mr Mullins said this could include discussions around on the spot fines for people in bushfire prone areas not willing to clear their property.

“Local government is closest to the community and more likely to know the local risks and what communities can and can’t do,” he said.

1994 bushfires on the northern beaches.

“They need to be proactive and keep maps up to date of bushfire risks, make informed decisions when determining DAs and assist local fire services with community education.”

He said the idea of the forum was for local council representatives to share ideas and work together on the unavoidable issue.

“The risk is there and it’s very real,” he said. “It’s about bushfire and climate change; because it’s a worsening problem everybody has got to pull their weight.”

Representative from Central Coast Council attended the event, and Mayor Jane Smith said one of the main roles for local governments was helping residents understand the new fire risks.

“Australian communities need to understand that we’re living in a new era now, with intense

bushfire seasons that start earlier and continue longer, as a result of climate change,” she said.

“As a significant amount of land within the Central Coast is considered bush fire prone, we must be prepared.

“The risk is there and it’s very real,” Mr Mullins said.

“Councils can help people to understand this new fire threat, and how it could affect where they live and how they build and renovate their homes.”

Council across Sydney taking part in the forum included Blacktown City Council, City of Canterbury-Bankstown, Hawkesbury City Council, Hornsby Shire Council, Ku-ring-gai Council, Northern Beaches Council, North Sydney Council and City of Ryde.


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