The Inspector-General Emergency Management’s review report and the government’s response to that have been tabled in State Parliament.
The government response states that all 38 of the report’s recommendations were supported or supported in-principle.
The Inspector-General Emergency Management (IGEM) Alistair Dawson said one of the IGEM’s critical, ongoing role is to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of disaster management arrangements in Queensland.
“During the review, the IGEM engaged with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation, held a forum with the Butchulla people, conducted five community and business forums and considered 78 written submissions.
“The review team undertook extensive consultation with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), the Queensland Police Service (QPS), the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Fraser Coast Regional Council.
“During the review, community members and business owners and operators expressed respect and gratitude to local Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers, Butchulla Rangers and local Rural Fire Brigade volunteers for their work.
“The review also highlighted examples of good practice and found opportunities for QFES and QPWS to better engage with relevant stakeholders, the Butchulla people and the community to plan and undertake hazard mitigation activities,” Mr Dawson said.
QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said work was already underway with partner agencies and stakeholders to ensure recommendations were progressed.
“We are always looking at ways to improve and are working to align action items from the report with work already underway,” Mr Wassing said.
“QFES has seen significant improvements through all phases of bushfire including how we prevent, prepare, respond and recover, and a lot of the recommendations made in this report will build upon learnings and continuous improvement items we conduct year on year.
“This fire was different to most and extremely challenging, but the work of QFES and QPWS staff and volunteers, partner agencies, local tourism and business operators, and the community was incredible.”
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said it was important after any major emergency to evaluate the response and the IGEM should be commended for this body of work.
“The bushfires last year posed particular challenges given the nature of the terrain and the fact it was on a large sand island with mobile phone and internet blackspots.
“The fire covered nearly 85,000 hectares – just over half the island – and 30 different water bombing aircraft dropped more than 13 million litres of water on the fire.
“Thankfully, there was no loss of human life, and while there was no significant structural damage, there was an impact to the world heritage-listed island’s natural habitat and disruption to the local community, the Butchulla people and the tourists and holiday makers who visit the island.
“Firefighters, volunteers, government personnel, traditional owners and the local community worked together to battle the blaze that continued to burn for a number of weeks.
“The 38 recommendations made in this report will help drive improvements for bushfire prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in the future and I know QFES is already making this work a priority.
“The findings of the report show that, while there are things we can improve on, the foundation is already there – our emergency services and their partner agencies are world class and I commend them for their dedication to service and their professionalism.
“Ensuring the safety of communities will continue to be a priority of the Queensland Government as we work to minimise the social cultural, environmental and economic impacts of disasters in Queensland,” the Minister said.
Environment and Great Barrier Reef Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the QPWS would lead the implementation of the recommendations tasked to it and work with other agencies to implement those where QPWS had a supporting role.
“K’gari is a World Heritage-listed area and we know how important this beautiful island is to Queenslanders,” Minister Scanlon said.
“The report demonstrated the collaborative nature of the response – particularly the engagement with the island’s Traditional Owners, the Butchulla people.
“I am pleased to say that the QPWS is already undertaking some of the very important work highlighted in the report.
“More training with a focus on incident command functions will be rolled out as part of our $16 million Enhanced Fire Management Project – and this Project was highlighted in the report as part of a ‘good practice’ case study.”
Minister Scanlon said that after every major incident, it was standard practice to examine the response and identify if anything could have been done differently.
“I thank the IGEM for the opportunity to participate in this important review,” Minister Scanlon said.
“QPWS will always strive for continual improvement and will work closely with QFES, the Butchulla people and the island community to implement the recommendations and look for opportunities to improve how we can work together, learn from each other and keep the people on K’gari safe.”
Link to K’gari Bushfire Review Report and Queensland Government Response