NSW Government launches inquiry into deadly bushfire season
THE NSW Government has announced it will conduct an independent expert inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season that has ravaged large parts of the state.
The inquiry will examine the causes of the bushfire and their locations, and consider any role of weather, drought, climate change, fuel loads and human activity on the bushfires.
The expert inquiry will also make recommendation to the State Government ahead of the next bushfire season.
The announcement of the inquiry comes after an Office of Emergency Management State Impact Report released at the end of 2019 revealed the full extent of the bushfire impact, with the Clarence Valley local government area revealed to be the hardest hit area across northern NSW.
With 97 per cent of assessments complete there were 1488 rural landholders directly impacted by the bushfire in the LGA, with 167 buildings destroyed completely.
That represented almost 25 per cent of buildings destroyed across the entire Northern NSW region since July 2019. The total number of houses destroyed in Northern NSW stood at 692.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said former Deputy Commissioner of NSW Police Dave Owens, and Professor Mary O'Kane AC, Independent Planning Commission Chair and former NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, will lead the six-month inquiry, which will review the causes of, preparation for and response to the 2019-20 bushfires.
"Professor O'Kane and Mr Owens have an extraordinary breadth and depth of experience into the matters they will be examining. I am confident their inquiry will be comprehensive and robust," Ms Berejiklian said.
"NSW is incredibly proud of the efforts of all our emergency services personnel and volunteers throughout this ongoing bushfire season, but the scale of these fires has been unprecedented and we must leave no stone unturned.
"This inquiry will allow NSW to learn from this season and the catastrophic conditions we've faced, and apply these learnings for the future."
Ms Berejiklian said recovery efforts are ongoing and remain the NSW Government's focus, as we work to ensure communities are supported as they begin to rebuild.
"Unfortunately the fire season is not over. Whilst we are focused on the rebuilding process we are mindful of the remaining fire threats," Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has welcomed Gladys Berejiklian's decision to act on Labor's call for an independent inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfires.
Ms McKay said she looked forward to the inquiry hearing from communities and individuals who were affected by the devastating fires, and expected it would travel widely to do so.
"It must not be a bureaucratic process based in Sydney; it is an opportunity for people to heal by telling their stories in the various places that were so badly affected," Ms McKay said.
"It must have open hearings and its findings must be made public. People must not be limited to merely making written submissions - many people worst-hit by the bushfires do not have the resources or the time to write, and they would much prefer to tell their stories in person."