AN independent report outlining the Victorian Government's progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) was last week tabled in State Parliament.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan welcomed the report from Bushfire Implementation Monitor Neil Comrie and said its findings would guide the government's ongoing implementation measures.
"This important report provides a comprehensive assessment of the Coalition Government's progress against nearly 300 action items identified in its 2011 Implementation Plan," Mr Ryan said.
"It is pleasing to see the report notes that 35 VBRC recommendations have now been completed, along with hundreds of implementation actions across government departments and agencies.
"Some of the biggest achievements to date include the establishment of the Bushfire Buy-Back Scheme and the formation of a $750 million package over 10 years to reduce the risks of electricity assets," the Minister said.
Mr Ryan said the report acknowledged that significant progress had been made in delivering VBRC recommendations and better preparing Victoria for the risk of bushfires.
The report states that in general terms, the state has made very good progress in meeting its commitments under the Implementation Plan.
"The report also identifies some areas where more work is required, which will be a key focus of the Coalition Government over coming months as part of ongoing implementation actions," Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government was steadfast in its commitment to implementing all 67 recommendations of the VBRC and to helping protect Victorians from the impact of bushfires.
"To ensure there is continued independent oversight of implementation actions, the Coalition Government has extended the role of the Implementation Monitor for a further two years until 30 September 2014," Mr Ryan said.
"This will enable Mr Comrie to produce two annual reports, to be tabled in Parliament, that continue to assess implementation activities, including the longer-term recommendations."
In relation to building and planning, the report summarises that there "has been a coordinated approach by departments and agencies to implement those recommendations aimed at improving integration between the building and planning regimes."
It said the changes include new state-wide hazard, vegetation and biodiversity mapping, amendments to State and local planning policies, new regulatory conditions imposed on building in high risk bushfire areas and community and sector wide information.
The report states that the changes "are by no means an absolute guarantee that all life or property will be protected and safe from the impact of a bushfire, but are designed to reduce and minimise this risk."
It also states that "while the majority of implementation actions in relation to the planning and building recommendations have been implemented in a timely fashion, many will take some years to implement and embed into the existing planning and building regimes."
"The effectiveness of changes, particularly planning scheme amendments, will not be known for many years to come and in many cases, the effectiveness may not be known until fully impacted by bushfire," the report writes.
The report is available from the Implementation Monitor's website at <http://www.bushfiresmonitor.vic.gov.au/>.