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'Elvis' funding for dedicated firefighting aircraft.



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MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government

13 September 2002 WT59/2002

'ELVIS' FUNDING FOR DEDICATED FIREFIGHTING AIRCRAFT

The Commonwealth Government will assist States and Territories fire authorities to bring heli-tankers to Australia for the coming bush fire season.

The Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Wilson Tuckey today announced the Commonwealth would provide up to $5 million to pay for up to half of the direct costs of leasing and locating three Erickson Aircrane heli-tankers for the peak fire season.

"Victoria already has arranged for one of these aircraft this summer," Mr Tuckey said.

"We will work with the States and Territories to get another two similar aircraft positioned here to meet the risk for this summer."

"The Federal Government is acting following the effectiveness of the heli-tankers in assisting with fighting the NSW bushfires last summer.

We recognise the importance of having an aerial firefighting capability readily available nationally to assist in fighting fires wherever they might occur in order to help save life and property as in the NSW 2001/2002 fire season."

Mr Tuckey said all expert opinion was predicting a hot dry summer.

Heavy fuel loads in many areas would result in a high-risk season.

"Already in July and August, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have had severe fires," Mr Tuckey said.

"I have written to the States and Territories offering on behalf of the Commonwealth 50 per cent of the cost of the leasing and positioning costs for the heli-tankers this fire season.

"The States will pay the other half as well as all of the operating costs. These additional resources must be funded by the States and Territories in their role as the responsible land managers"

Mr Tuckey said the New South Wales bushfire crisis last summer highlighted the role of aerial fire-fighting aircraft, particularly heli-tankers.

"But heli-tankers are not the only answer," Mr Tuckey said.

"Unfortunately the growing demand from State fire agencies for fire-fighting aircraft reflects their need to overcome problems they have in accessing forests due to poor management by the State forestry authorities in recent years.

"Poor land management practices in a number of jurisdictions means we now have to look to expensive technology to deal with the tragic effects of wild bushfires.

"There is no substitute for effective fire prevention strategies including proper land management and ground based firefighting."

Mr Tuckey said the Commonwealth would work with the States and Territories to develop longer term arrangements for a national aerial firefighting approach, including establishing joint management arrangements for sharing resources and costs.

"There is an obvious need for national arrangements to enable any State to manage an above-normal fire load and to more effectively share scarce resources to meet major fire outbreaks," Mr Tuckey said.

"There also needs to be a comprehensive national approach to fire prevention and forest management to produce a comprehensive audit of wild fire risk and fuel load build up."

Media Contacts

Graeme Hallett ( Minister Tuckey's Office ) 0419 688 440