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  Comment Banner Image Aug 2009
 

Changes to the Fire and Emergency Services Act

 

An Amendment Bill to the Fire and Emergency Services Act that will help to give greater focus to community preparedness, prevention, response and recovery could be in place as soon as September this year if it is passed during the next sitting of Parliament.

These amendments are a result of the recommendations from the Fire and Emergency Services Act review, findings of the Ministerial Review of  Bushfire Management in South Australia and the Deputy Coroner's Wangary Coronial Inquest. The changes are primarily concerned with further refining governance and legislative arrangements and supporting operational improvements identified in these reviews.

Emergency Services Minister Michael Wright said that the changes will see many benefits to the community and are a step forward in streamlining the governance and administration of the sector.

"Communities will benefit from increased attention to the preparedness, prevention, response and recovery phases of emergency service management, and the emergency services will benefit through a much closer and more efficient working relationship. These initiatives will further ensure that communities and emergency workers are well prepared for fire and emergencies," Minister Wright said.

It is proposed that the current three-tiered bushfire management framework be changed to a two-tiered framework consisting of a new State Bushfire Coordination Committee and the establishment of Bushfire Management Committees across the state based on common landscape risks. This will subsequently lead to a more efficient system with a focused approach to bushfire management and planning functions.

Changing the membership and constitutional arrangements of the SAFECOM Board and disbanding the Advisory Board is also included. It is proposed that representatives from the United Firefighters Union (UFU) and the CFS and SES Volunteers Associations will be given voting rights on the SAFECOM Board, along with the two other Ministerial appointees, giving them a more formal say in the direction of the sector.

Other proposed changes include increased penalties for offences, the ability to establish bushfire risk areas in urban communities and greater flexibility for local councils in how they resource fire prevention work.

SAFECOM Chief Executive David Place said that he is pleased with the proposed changes and the transparency of the process.

"Many people within the sector have invested a great deal of time in fully examining the recommendations from the reviews, consulting widely on the proposed changes, fine tuning the draft legislation and preparing work packages to implement and communicate the legislative amendments when they are passed," David said.

Further changes to this Act may be necessary following the Royal Commission into the Victorian Bushfires, which the SA Bushfire Task Force is exploring.

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