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National aerial firefighting strategy.

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Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government WILSON TUCKEY

2 April 2002 WT16/2002


Significant steps are being taken by the Commonwealth Government to ensure that an assessment of the nation’s aerial firefighting capabilities is undertaken before the beginning of the next fire season in southern Australia.

Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Wilson Tuckey said the Government was developing a national firefighting strategy in partnership with State and Territory governments. The strategy will take into account traditional methods of firefighting while recognising advances in new technologies.

“I am confident that any gaps in Australia’s arsenal of aerial firefighting equipment will be identified and recommendations made to Government on the options available to fill those gaps,” he said.

“For firebombing to be effective it is important that the most suitable aircraft or combination of aircraft types be chosen to suit environmental conditions.

“While I recognise the important role played by the “heli-tankers” in the recent fires, a range of aerial firefighting equipment will be examined to identify which of these may be appropriate and necessary for Australia’s unique environment and spread of resources.

“Any new approach to firefighting must be able to integrate fully into existing fire organisations where these processes are already well established. There is no substitute for effective fire prevention strategies and ground-based suppression.”

Mr Tuckey highlighted the integral role State and Territory governments will play in this process.

“The firefighting responsibility and expertise lies with the people like the volunteers and salaried officers who so bravely fought against the recent fires in New South Wales and Western Australia.

“The Australasian Fire Authorities Council, the peak body representing all firefighting agencies in Australia, will be developing the strategy on behalf of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments’ partnership. I welcome their involvement in this process,” Mr Tuckey said.

The Federal Government will provide financial assistance to the Council to enable preparation of a State/Territory coordinated approach to aerial firefighting resources. The Council is expected to provide a report to government by June.

Media Contact: Graeme Hallett 0419 688 440