BRISBANE, Australia — A report on the Queensland government’s response to last year’s Fraser Island bushfires highlights the need for better consultation with traditional owners.
Issued by Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan in parliament on May 27, the review finds opportunities for the Queensland Fire and Emergency services and Parks and Wildlife Service to better engage with relevant stakeholders and better prepare for disasters.
The government says it supports all 38 of the report’s recommendations.
These recommendations evaluate the effectiveness of disaster management arrangements in Queensland, particularly management of Fraser Island following the two-month bushfire in late 2020.
The blaze burnt through about 85,000 hectares, or more than half of the World Heritage-listed island.
The Inspector-General Emergency Management, Alistair Dawson, says the report seeks to engage all stakeholders in implementing better practices.
“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 volunteer for their work,” Dawson said.
“The review also highlighted examples of good practice and found opportunities for fire service and Queensland National parks to better engage with relevant stakeholders, the Butchulla people and the community to plan and undertake hazard mitigation activities.”
Most notable of the recommendations brought forward are the enhancement of arrangements for managing bushfires and disasters to cultural heritage sites and a constant evaluation and review of the existing Queensland bushfire plan.
Moreover, traditional owners of the land, the Butchulla people, should be engaged with monitoring and evaluation of fire management practices.
The report states the Department of Environment and Science should develop a prescribed burn program for the island, also known as K’gari, in collaboration with the Locality Specific Fire Management Group and the Butchulla people.
It also recommends Queensland Fire and Emergency Services consider expanding specialist remote area firefighting team capabilities to assist in responding to significant bushfires that occur in rugged or inaccessible terrain.
“The 38 recommendations made in this report will help drive improvements for bushfire prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in the future and I know Queensland Fire and Emergency Services is already making this work a priority,” Ryan said.
“The findings of the report show that, while there are things we can improve on, the foundation is already there.
“Ensuring the safety of communities will continue to be a priority of the Queensland government as we work to minimize the social-cultural, environmental and economic impacts of disasters in Queensland.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari. Map by Urvashi Makwana)