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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 285


Mr CADMAN (10.59 a.m.) —I wish also to pay tribute to all of those who participated in controlling the tragedies and taking care of the community over the period of the bushfires in Sydney. My area of Mitchell, which is north-western Sydney, is a bushfire hazard area. We have always got bushfires, we have always got problems, and it is something that the community lives with. Fortunately, due to the high degree of skill and training of volunteer bush fire brigades and other services, we are able to minimise the dramatic impact and damage to property and life, and that has occurred over many years.

  On this occasion, except for one small area, the electorate of Mitchell was spared the damage of fire. In the Maroot area, however, there was loss of property and severe damage to the livelihood of orchardists. Trees were burnt or scorched. Many of them will die and will eventually have to be replaced at high cost to those farmers. All services pulled together. In the last couple of years in my area, the state services and volunteers have been able to amalgamate into an effective unit to fight fires.

  In Mitchell, as elsewhere in New South Wales, the state government has given the police pre-eminence in emergency situations, and that appears to be working very well. We have central control systems and emergency headquarters can be established and operated by the police. Sitting alongside the police are the professional firefighters, the volunteer firefighters, the state emergency services, the voluntary aid detachments, the arm of the Red Cross that looks after the needs of people, the Salvation Army and others involved in this process. I think it is a good organisational model.

  I want to pay tribute to the local police, the State Emergency Service, the volunteer bush fire brigades, and all others that were involved from Mitchell. They went out in huge numbers to the rest of Sydney, across into the Hornsby area, into the Blue Mountains and even to the north coast, realising all the time that their areas—the areas of Annangrove, Kenthurst, Dural, Glenorie, Galston, Arcadia, Berrilee—were all likely to come under threat. Some of these areas have recently been transferred to the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Ruddock). I know them well and I know how hard those volunteer bush fire brigade members worked to support other areas and to assist others in sore need. I want to pay tribute to John Hojel, the fire control officer, Baulkham Hills Shire Council, who has a vast wealth of experience in bushfire control.

  I want to leave this debate with one comment. Having had a background on the land and having been involved in these sorts of organisations for most of my life, I am led to the view that, in the preparation that has been made through much of New South Wales—the equipment, the training, the cooperation and organisational skills—all of the emergency services involved and the bush fire brigade have reached a high level, and that is something of which we should be proud.

  In the electorate of Mitchell there is one more thing that can be done, I believe. People are aware, through building codes, that they need to build in sensible places and need to keep the immediate environs of their houses free from rubbish and fire hazard material. The cool winter burn that has been so long a tradition of fire control is something that must be reinstigated, and sensibly. The loss of fauna has been tragic because the very people seeking to protect fauna in fact created the circumstances that caused so much fauna to be lost. It is a case of people not understanding and having no practical knowledge of bushfire control. The community needs to take precautions to alleviate the difficulties that were exposed to us all over the tragic days in January.