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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1668


Senator Milne asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 19 February 2008:

   With reference to the series of bushfires that began burning on or about 6 December 2006 on the east coast of Tasmania, seriously damaging a number of areas, especially the Four Mile Creek district:

(1)   Given Forestry Tasmania’s statement that the ignition point was a campfire lit by tourists at the Griffin Park picnic site contradicts local community reports that the forest around the Griffin Park picnic site was not burnt during the bushfires, how and where did the fires start.

(2)   When were the bushfires declared a national disaster.

(3)   What federal, state and local agencies were involved in the management, assessment of damage and recovery from the bushfires.

(4) (a)   What were the terms of reference for the Affected Areas Recovery Committee (AARC), established following the bushfires;

(5) (a)   Was the AARC established under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements; and (b) who determined its make-up

(6) (a)   When did the AARC first meet; and (b) (i) how often did it meet, (ii) on what dates, and (iii) who attended.

(7) (a)   What Government agencies and what private organisations were represented on the AARC; (b) which individuals represented these agencies and organisations on the AARC; and (c) how were these individuals selected.

(8)   How did the AARC determine recommendations for funding allocations.

(9)   Who appointed the Mayor of Break O’Day Council as chair of the AARC.

(10)   Why was the Mayor appointed to chair the AARC, rather than an independent official from outside the municipality.

(11)   (a) What was the process for those affected by the 2006 fires to apply for financial assistance; and (b) how was this process communicated.

(12)   Can a breakdown be provided of funds expended by the AARC; if not, why not.

(13)   With reference to the decision of the AARC to advertise for a coordinator to establish community contact some time after its establishment, why was the position not advertised when the AARC was established.

(14)   Why were residents from the worst fire-affected regions (Scamander and Four Mile Creek) restricted to three seats out of ten on the Community Recovery Representative Group (CRRG).

(15)   (a) Who determined the make-up of the CRRG; and (b) (i) how often did it meet, (ii) on what dates, and (iii) who attended.

(16)   (a) What were the terms of reference for the CRRG; (b) were the terms of reference different from the AARC’s terms of reference; if so, why; and (c) did the AARC release its terms of reference to the CRRG on its establishment; if not, why not.

(17)   What was the process of consultation and communication between the CRRG, the AARC, and affected communities.

(18)   How often did the CRRG meet with the AARC.

(19)   (a) How did the CRRG determine recommendations for funding allocations; and (b) was information regarding funding allocations made by the AARC withheld from the CRRG; if so, why.

(20)   Why was the Four Mile community’s application to the AARC, through its CRRG representative, for funding in June 2007 to pay for a fire damage and rehabilitation assessment and updated management plans for the Four Mile catchment rejected.

(21)   Were the total costs of damaged and destroyed public infrastructure (i.e. telecommunications, roads, bridges etc.) calculated; if not, why not; if so, what was the total cost of repair and replacement of public infrastructure.

(22)   Were funds administered by the AARC used, or proposed to be used, for the repair or replacement of public infrastructure; if so, on what justification.

(23)   Has the AARC, or relevant federal, state and local agencies, assessed the total environmental damage caused by the fires; if not, why not.

(24)   Has the AARC, or relevant federal, state and local agencies, undertaken any environmental rehabilitation of areas damaged by the bushfires; if not, why not.

(25)   Has the AARC, or relevant federal, state and local agencies, instituted any new fire management plans or initiatives as a result of their work on the bushfires; if not, why not.


Senator Ludwig (Minister for Human Services) —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   I am not aware of the ignition point of the fires.

(2)   The bushfires were never declared a “national disaster”.

(3)   I am advised the following organisations were involved in the management, assessment and recovery from the bushfires:

  • Break O’Day Council;
  • Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet;
  • Tasmanian Department of Police and Emergency Management;
  • Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Service;
  • Tasmanian Department of Economic Development;
  • Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water;
  • Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources;
  • the former Australian Government Department of Transport and Regional Services; and
  • the former Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

(4) (a)   See Attachment A for Terms of Reference of the Affected Area Recovery Committee (AARC).

(5)  

(a)   The AARC was established by Tasmania, consistent with the Guidelines under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

(b)   I am advised that the make-up was determined in accordance with Tasmanian legislative requirements for establishment of AARCs.

(6) (a)   and (b)(i), (ii), (iii) I am advised details of the meeting dates and attendees is not currently available. Officers in my Department are continuing efforts to obtain that information from Tasmania.

(7) (a)   , (b) and (c) I am advised members were selected on the basis of their roles within their respective organisations, these included:

  • Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet - Mr Mathew Healey;
  • Tasmanian Department of Police and Emergency Management - Mr Chris Beattie;
  • Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Service - Mr Kevin O’Loughlin;
  • Red Cross Australia (various);
  • the former Australian Government Department of Transport and Regional Services (various); and
  • the former Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (various).

(8)   I am advised the AARC did not determine recommendations for funding allocations. The AARC received advice and recommendations from the Community Recovery Representatives Group (CRRG), and allocated funds based on that advice and recommendations.

(9)   I am advised the Mayor of Break O’Day Council was appointed as Chair of the AARC by the State Emergency Management Controller (Commissioner of Police).

(10)   I am advised that there is no provision in the Tasmanian Emergency Management Plan, under which an AARC is created, for a person from outside the municipality affected to be appointed as Chair of an AARC.

(11)   (a) I am advised Individuals or community groups were invited to prepare submissions for funding under the Community Recovery Fund. These applications were then assessed by the CRRG against pre-established criteria with recommended priorities forwarded to the AARC; (b) I am advised that the application process for the Community Recovery Fund was well advertised via a weekly recovery newsletter, the Council website and media releases. Additionally, Break O’Day Council Staff door knocked affected areas to advise the assistance available. Meeting points were also established in St Marys and Scamander to assist people in making applications.

(12)   A full list of projects funded using the Community Recovery Funds will be included in a report expected to be received by the Australian Government from Tasmania in the near future. I will provide that to you when received.

(13)   I am advised the appointment of a Disaster Recovery Coordinator is not always a standard response to a natural disaster. In these circumstances, the AARC elected to meet and decide upon Terms of Reference for the AARC, identify community needs and consider options for the delivery of services to the community before deciding whether it was necessary to appoint a Disaster Recovery Coordinator.

(14)   The bushfire affected the entire Break O’Day municipality not just a single region. I am advised that the aim of the CRRGs was to represent the entire Break O’Day community and take the community forward by using a collaborative approach that focussed on the needs of the entire community. The number of positions on the CRRG did not reflect the relative impact of the fires.

(15)   (a), (b)(i), (ii), and (iii) I am advised the CRRG was established by calling for expressions of interest. Eleven expressions of interest were received. Eight applications were selected to form the CRRG by the AARC. The Australian Government did not participate in this process, hence I am unable to provide you with the dates or frequency of meetings.

(16)   (a) The Terms of Reference for the CRRG are at Attachment B; (b) I am advised the terms of reference were different from the AARC because the role of each of the groups was different; and (c) I do not know if the CRRG requested or were provided with the Terms of Reference for the AARC.

(17)   I am advised that a Disaster Recovery Coordinator was employed to support the consultative process and engage the community and seek their input as to how to best use the remaining funding. The Disaster Recovery Coordinator was the link between the AARC, CRRG and the broader community. I am also advised that the Break O’Day Council also actively engaged the local community by providing a regular newsletter to residents. This included information on available grants, counselling support and other general information. Additionally, the Council worked with individual victims of the bushfires to ensure they were receiving appropriate support and were made aware of the range of assistance available.

(18)   The chairperson of the CRRG met once with the AARC on 14 December 2007. The Disaster Recovery Coordinator remained the link between the AARC and CRRG.

(19)   (a) and (b) I am advised the CRRG assessed all applications for funding according to agreed criteria and that the CRRG was advised of all decisions made by the AARC.

(20)   I am advised the proposal was not rejected; rather other projects received a higher priority. I am also advised the proposal was considered at the August 2007 meeting of the AARC at which time discussion was deferred until further information had been provided. The proposal was subsequently reconsidered at the December 2007 AARC meeting at which time the AARC agreed that only two parts of the four part proposal, that is, the review and update of the existing Four Mile Creek catchment plan and a fire management plan, met the criteria for funding. The two parts that were not funded related to a settlement strategy and projected sea level rise mapping and risk assessment for the Four Mile Creek beach. The former was not funded because the Council was already preparing one; and the latter because environmental activities such as these are ineligible under the Australian Government’s NDRRA.

(21)   I am advised total cost of damaged and destroyed public infrastructure to date, is approximately $3.86 million.

(22)   No.

(23)   The NDRRA does not provide for broad scale environmental assessment and therefore it is not the role of a Community Recovery Committee to do this sort of assessment. I am not aware of assessments that may have been undertaken by other agencies.

(24)   The NDRRA does not provide for environmental rehabilitation, therefore this activity is outside my portfolio.

(25)   I am advised the Disaster Recovery Coordinator, appointed by the AARC, has been working with the Council and Tasmanian Fire Service to ensure that any changes required in fire management plans as a result of these fires will be made.


Attachment A

TERMS OF REFERENCE

AFFECTED AREA RECOVERY COMMITTEE

(EAST COAST BUSHFIRES OF DECEMBER 2006)

Role

To assist Local Government in the long-term recovery of communities impacted by the East Coast Bushfires of December 2006 and to facilitate the effective coordination of recovery through information sharing and collective decision-making.

Functions

  • Develop and implement a recovery plan that:
  • takes account of Local Government long-term planning and goals;
  • includes an assessment of the recovery needs and determines which recovery functions are still required;
  • develops a timetable for completing the major functions;
  • allows full community participation and access;
  • allows for the monitoring of the progress of recovery;
  • provides for the public access to information on the proposed programmes and subsequent decisions and actions; and
  • allows consultation with all relevant community groups.
  • Allocate funding provided by the State and Commonwealth Governments under the Community Recovery Fund to implement the strategic recovery plan.
  • Consider the application of funds generated by public appeals.
  • Additional functions that will require consideration by the Affected Area Recovery Committee include:
  • assessing individual and community needs;
  • damage assessment;
  • setting priorities for the restoration of infrastructure and basic services;
  • environmental rehabilitation;
  • property restoration (urban/rural);
  • long-term community and personal support; and
  • long-term legal, insurance and financial problems.

Composition

Membership of the Affected Area Recovery Committee will initially comprise:

  • Mayor of Break O’Day (chair)
  • General Manager, Break O’Day
  • State Recovery Coordinator
  • State Emergency Service
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Commonwealth Representative (tbc)
  • Community leaders as nominated by Break O’Day x 3
  • Representative of Red Cross

Should additional municipalities suffer significant impact from the Bushfires and additional representation is required, the membership will be augmented with the Mayor(s) and General Manager(s) and additional community members as required with one Mayor elected as Chair.

Reporting

The Affected Area Recovery Committee will report progress to Council(s) and the State Government.


Attachment B

Tasmanian East Coast Fires - Bushfire Recovery

Community Recovery Reference Committee

Terms of Reference

June 2007

1: Introduction:

In December 2006 the Break O’Day Municipality was affected by a significant bushfire resulting in considerable damage and loss of property in several communities across the Municipality.

2: Affected Area Recovery Committee (AARC);

Following the fires an Affected Area Recovery Committee was established to facilitate and support the effective coordination of the community recovery process. The AARC has representation from key agencies with roles in either resourcing and / or delivering recovery services.

The purpose of the AARC is to lead and facilitate the efforts of a ‘whole of government’ response to assist the affected communities to recover from this disaster.

This committee aims to maintain a high level of briefing on current and emerging recovery issues to be able to quickly grasp issues to formulate advice to all levels of government.

A recent key task of the AARC has been a community consultation process to identify the key recovery challenges facing the community now and into the future. The information and ideas gathered through the consultation have been used to inform the development of the East Coast Fires Community Recovery Plan. The AARC will now have the responsibility to make decisions on allocation of East Coast Fires Community Recovery Funding to support the implementation of that Recovery Plan.

3: Definition of Recovery;

As defined within the Recovery Manual, Emergency Management Australia:

“Recovery is the coordinated process of supporting disaster affected persons in the reconstruction of the physical infrastructure and restoration of emotional, social, economic and physical well-being.’

In keeping with this definition the AARC accepts the following Recovery Principles; “Disaster recovery is most effective when…

  • Management arrangements recognise that recovery from disaster is a complex, dynamic and protracted process;
  • Agreed plans and management arrangements are well understood by the community and all disaster management agencies;
  • Recovery agencies are properly integrated into disaster management arrangements;
  • Community service and reconstruction agencies have input to key decision making;
  • Conducted with the active participation of the affected community;
  • Recovery managers are involved from initial briefings onwards;
  • Recovery services are provided in a timely, fair, equitable and flexible manner; and
  • Supported by training programs and exercises.

In accordance with those Principles, it is the ARRC’s intention to ensure all community development work undertaken will be done in a manner which empowers individuals and communities in the management of their own recovery from the disaster of the East Coast fires.

4: Role of the Community Recovery Reference Group

To achieve a greater level of community input into the recovery processes the AARC has approved the establishment of a Community Recovery Reference Group.

The Community Recovery Reference Group’s key role will be to support community input into the recovery process by advising the AARC and facilitating community stakeholder engagement in the development and delivery of recovery actions.

5: Membership of the Community Recovery Reference Group

The Community Reference Group will be comprised of community representatives from each of the following areas where there has been a major impact including;

  • Scamander
  • St Marys/ Cornwall
  • Four Mile Creek / Falmouth and
  • St Helens.

Community representatives selected to participate in the Community Recovery Reference Group will be required to demonstrate that;

  • They are involved in community activities and are prominent members of their community or an established community group; and
  • Have the ability to interact with community members and are articulate.

6: Goals of Community Recovery Reference Group

The Community Recovery Reference Group members (with the assistance of the Disaster Recovery Coordinator), will support the recovery process through:

  • Providing a robust and open communication channel between the AARC, BODC and their local communities;
  • Undertaking to closely engage with their respective communities in order to advocate for their community’s recovery needs to the AARC;
  • Assisting their communities to identify emerging recovery needs and plan appropriate recovery actions considering social, economic, environmental, and physical recovery needs in the medium and longer term;
  • Close engagement with their communities to develop and prioritise initiatives and resourcing options that achieve the actions as identified in the East Coast Fires Community Recovery Plan;
  • Development of recommendations based on the above priorities and submitted through Break O’Day Community Development Officer and the Disaster Recovery Coordinator to the AARC, including where relevant recommendations for allocation of East Coast Fires Community Recovery funds.
  • Providing an understanding to the AARC, on the level of support and capacity by the community and BODC to work in partnerships to implement those recommended initiatives;
  • Assisting with implementation and coordination of recovery initiatives being undertaken in the community;
  • Provision of advice, support and feedback to the AARC, BODC and their respective communities on the progress for the implementation and evaluation of the East Coast Fires Community Recovery Plan;
  • Utilisation of local networks to share information with the community about the recovery process, resource allocation and decisions and activities planned; and
  • Fostering of community ownership of projects and support for individuals to become involved in local leadership roles.

7: Guidelines for the prioritisation of Community Recovery funding

Initiatives recommended for East Coast Fires Community Recovery funding support should support the achievement of actions contained in the East Coast Fires Community Recovery Plan and be prioritised on the basis of:

  • Improving community amenity, well being and harmony
  • Having strong support from their respective local communities (through both implementation partnerships and broad endorsement)
  • Improving the community development capacity of local communities
  • Providing tangible ongoing community benefits
  • Encouraging community coordination and cooperation

8: Term of the Community Recovery Reference Group

The Community Recovery Reference group will agree to operate for a 12-month term, which is also the term of appointment for the Disaster Recovery Coordinator.

The Community Recovery Reference Group will review their operation at 6 months to ensure they are operating within these Terms of Reference and at that time plan for their completion and finalisation and winding down of recovery initiatives.

9: Community Engagement and Communication Strategy

In conjunction with the Disaster Recovery Coordinator the Community Recovery Reference Group will develop and distribute a Community Engagement Strategy that explains the tools and processes for achieving ongoing open communication between all key stakeholders involved in the recovery process.

The Community Engagement Strategy will also outline the process to be undertaken for the Community Recovery Reference Group members to work with their communities to prioritise initiatives as identified in the East Coast Fires Community Recovery Plan. This process will ensure that recommendations can be made to the AARC for support from East Coast Fires Community Recovery funding.

10: Administrative Support :

The Disaster Recovery Coordinator will provide administrative support to the Community Recovery Reference Group and will:

  • Prepare and circulate agendas;
  • Prepare and circulate minutes; and
  • Arrange meeting venues, including light refreshments.

11 : Meetings

Initially the Community Recovery Reference Group have selected to meet fortnightly to enable them to quickly develop activities to support the recovery processes . At a time to be determined by the group, meetings could then be altered to suit progress and the urgency of the recovery process.

Meetings will be kept to less than two hours and a finish time will be determined at the beginning of each meeting.

Meeting venues will move around the region as suits the members to share travel requirements.