The commission heard about improvements that can be made to better prepare for and respond to the next bushfire.
The commission heard about improvements that can be made to better prepare for and respond to the next bushfire.

7 things our residents told the Bushfire Royal Commission

THE National Natural Disaster Royal Commission visited the Richmond Valley on Thursday, to meet with a small group of people in Casino who are representative of local communities affected by the recent bushfires.

In the public hearing, the commission heard from about 15 people from Rappville, Busbys Flat and Bora Ridge about how the federal government can better prepare for bushfires, keep the community informed, control the fires and help communities rebuild.

We spoke to Richmond Valley Council's general manager Vaughan Macdonald and local resident Cate McQuillen, who attended the hearing.

Seven things local residents told the Royal Commission

1. We need better telecommunications infrastructure

In Rappville, mobile coverage is patchy at the best of times.

"You couldn't communicate because your mobile phone didn't work, and it wasn't because of the bushfire," Mr Macdonald said.

"It would be nice to have NBN wireless in those areas."

2. Hazard-reduction burns were insufficient

The Royal Commission heard land management practices in National Parks, State Forests, on crown land and on private properties must improve to reduce fuel loads in order to prevent another fire of this magnitude.

"If fuel loads weren't so large, it wouldn't have grown to that scale," Mr Macdonald said.

"We also need to allow private landowners larger windows of opportunities to burn off."

3. Fires Near Me app needs an upgrade

The app was a lifeline for people like Ms McQuillen, who checked it 30-40 times a day.

She recommended upgrades, such as wind speed and direction information.

"I don't they ever developed that app to deal with fires like that," she said.

"How can the app deal with a fire that goes past us, turns around and comes back again? It doesn't allow for overlay."

4. Mobilise the defence force early on

"We want to recognise the important role the defence force played," Mr Macdonald said.

They were involved with clearing fire trails in January and back up logistics during the fires.

5. We need bigger fire trucks in the bush

Drought severely impacted firefighters' capacity to hose down the fires, meaning they were taking long trips to fill up tanks.

"When your creeks and dams are almost empty, it takes more time to refill trucks," Mr Macdonald said.

6. Make clean up assistance available to everyone, immediately

Initially it was only offered to those without insurance.

"Clean-up of residential properties is now available to all, this enables those who were insured to use insurance money to rebuild," Mr Macdonald said.

7. We want decisive action on our recovery plan

"We have a recovery plan, it identifies items we would like funding support for," Mr Macdonald said

"Decision making on that is something we are pushing for."

The Royal Commission is still taking submissions from the public online and via 1800 909 826 until April 3.



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