MORE than five years on, Victoria is now "in a much better state of preparedness to deal with the threat of bushfire and other natural disasters than it was on Black Saturday", according to the final report of the independent Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor.
Police and Emergency Services and Bushfire Response Minister Kim Wells welcomed the release of the Implementation Monitor's Annual Report by Neil Comrie, which was tabled in Parliament early last week.
"In the 2014 Annual Report, the Monitor has noted that the Victorian Coalition Government has made 'significant progress' in fire reform over the past 12 months with 56 recommendations now completed," Mr Wells said, referring to the 67 recommendations made by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission in July 2010.
The Minister said that in his final report as Implementation Monitor, Mr Comrie highlights:
- The successful implementation of location-based Emergency Alerts;
- The successful completion of the Community Fire Refuges Pilot Program and the opening of three community fire refuges in East Warburton, Ferny Creek and Blackwood;
- The positive progress of the powerline reform program under the direction of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Oversight Committee; and
- The progress in developing a risk based approach to planned burning.
"This report highlights the Coalition Government's commitment to ensuring as a state we are better prepared to deal with the threat of bushfires," Mr Wells said.
"The remaining 11 recommendations continue to be implemented and largely relate to ongoing, long term, complex projects including the Powerline Bushfire Safety program.
"The report notes that satisfactory progress continues to be made in implementing the remaining recommendations."
Mr Wells said the ongoing implementation of reforms to emergency management remained the focus of the new Emergency Management Commissioner (EMC), Craig Lapsley, and Emergency Management Victoria (EMV).
"In response to the Royal Commission and the 2011 Floods Review, the Coalition Government implemented the most significant reforms to emergency management in Victoria for 30 years," Mr Wells said.
"As part of our new arrangements, EMC Craig Lapsley will help drive the reforms to emergency management, taking an overarching management role during major emergencies to ensure a systematic and coordinated response.
"In addition the reforms also created the role of Inspector-General for Emergency Management, who will progressively monitor the performance of the emergency management sector and identify opportunities for improvement."
The Implementation Monitor's report recommends that the Inspector-General for Emergency Management assume responsibility for ongoing monitoring of the remaining recommendations.
Mr Wells said the Victorian Government was committed to building a better and safer state, and said it was vital that implementation actions continue to be monitored and publicly reported in a transparent and robust manner.
"The broad suite of reforms will ensure Victoria's emergency management system provides the best possible response to future emergencies in the state," Mr Wells said.
Mr Well said this recommendation, and the findings in the Implementation Monitor's report, will be considered by the government as part of its continued commitment to implement all of the Royal Commission's recommendations.
The Implementation Monitor was appointed in October 2010 and tasked with monitoring, reviewing and reporting on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations made by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. In June 2012, the operation of the Implementation Monitor was extended to September 2014.
The July 2014 Annual Report is available from the Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor website at <http://www.bushfiresmonitor.vic.gov.au/>.