Recognising the importance of local knowledge and adequate resourcing for local activity will help to improve WA’s response to bushfire events across Western Australia.

Today’s announcement the State will implement all of the Ferguson Report’s recommendations following the 2016 Waroona bushfires was welcomed by the Local Government sector.

WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said there appeared to be sector support for the report’s recommendations but Local Governments would expect to be closely involved in exploring how they might be implemented.  

“We support the intent of these recommendations, but the first hurdle will be to recognise that current structures and processes will not be able to achieve them,” Cr Craigie said.

“Our submission to the Inquiry highlighted that knowledge and existing strengths of local resources could be better utilised, and we were pleased to see that reflected in the recommendations, and now also the State Government’s response.

“But a business as usual approach will not deliver the outcomes that have been endorsed.”

Cr Craigie said WALGA had been working with a number of State Government agencies on identifying opportunities for improvement ahead of today’s response and would seek to further those discussions to establish a clear framework for implementation.

“For example, the establishment of a rural fire service, either as a stand-alone department or subset of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services will require extensive consultation in order to get it right,” Cr Craigie said.

“The value of local knowledge and the volunteer workforce not only plays an important role in response activity to individual events, it can make a big difference to the success of this planning stage as well.”

Cr Craigie said Local Governments would also benefit from an independent review of funding under the Emergency Services Levy and would promote expanding the scope of the Levy beyond the response phase to assist Local Governments in meeting their growing costs to help communities in preparing for and recovering from emergency events.

“WALGA has been advocating for a review of the ESL for many years as fighting bushfires is about more than just responding to the event itself,” Cr Craigie said.

“Planning for hazards, mitigating against them and supporting local communities in their recovery after emergency events is also a big part of the picture and should be included both in the planning approach and funding considerations.”