Bushfire Preparedness

08 Sep 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:34): It is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the people of Stuart on an important and serious matter—not one for alarm but one to be taken very seriously—and that is the topic of fire preparedness as we move into spring and summer. In our electorate of Stuart, we are no strangers to very serious bushfires.

In the last 11 or so years that I have been a member of parliament, we have had extremely serious fires in Woolundunga, a few in Wirrabara and Bundaleer forests, the Bangor fire—which of course engulfed much of the Wirrabara forest as well—and a couple in the Flinders Ranges. They are just the ones that you would call serious fires or campaign fires, and they are of course in addition to an enormous number of much smaller but still very serious bushfires.

We have, though, been very fortunate that in the last few years we have not had any extremely serious bushfires in our electorate, but we have certainly been close to them. We think of people on Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula and the Adelaide Hills who have been affected by bushfires lately. The most recent fires affecting the electorate of Stuart would be the Pinery fire and the Kangaroo Flat or Eden Valley fires.

The reason that the last few years without fire is so important is that we know that flammable material—vegetative matter—increases season after season without a fire. Of course, we are glad not to have those fires, but the risk does grow. Certainly, in the southern part of the electorate of Stuart it has been a pretty good cropping season so far, a good winter, with I would not say extremely high but good rainfall so far. That means that through spring and summer we will only have more flammable material available.

I cannot stress enough the importance of people preparing their bushfire preparedness plans, their bushfire action plans. It might be that a person lives in a home in Port Augusta or in a small country town like Wilmington, where I live, but anybody can be affected by a fire. A lot of our towns have vacant blocks, including in Port Augusta, where there quite a few sections of many acres of open area with grass and trees on them.

I know the CFS and the councils do a fantastic job trying to explain to people, when they have overgrown blocks in spring, that they need to slash them, that they need to remove that flammable material. Even with the best will in the world and the best compliance in the world, it can still happen that even within a town a fire could be started that could threaten a home that one might not normally think was under threat from fires. Then, of course, the risk grows exponentially for farmhouses in country and agricultural areas surrounded by scrub and/or pasture and/or crops.

I just want to take this opportunity to stress to everybody that we all have a part to play. We are incredibly grateful for the work of the CFS, the SES, and the farm firefighting units, which year by year become a more and more important part of the combined firefighting capacity of the MFS on occasions. Harking back to what I said once before, in the Woolundunga fire, I think it was, we had MFS fire trucks—red fire trucks—patrolling the streets of Wilmington 300 kilometres from Adelaide because it was a concern that the fire might reach the houses and town. If the MFS was in town, the CFS did not need to then focus any attention on the town but could go out to where the greater fire risk was. That is a Wilmington example, it is a hometown example from me, but exactly the same thing has happened in other towns all around the state.

This is a very serious issue. We are blessed not to have had extremely serious bushfires in our electorate of Stuart in recent years. But what that means is that the available flammable material is now more abundant than it is during times when you have had a fire, so the risks are greater. I urge everybody to do everything they can to support those services and take responsibility for themselves.