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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    JOINT STATEMENT
    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
    Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
    The Honourable Craig Crawford

    Independent reports endorse natural disaster management

    JOINT STATEMENT

    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
    The Honourable Craig Crawford

    Monday, July 15, 2019

    Independent reports endorse natural disaster management

    Independent reviews have endorsed Queensland’s handling of its most recent natural disasters.

    The Inspector-General Emergency Management (IGEM) reviews were ordered following the 2018 Bushfires and 2019 North Queensland Floods.

    Key findings include:

    • the safe operation of the Ross River Dam prevented more widespread flooding in Townsville and
    • Queensland should re-assess its risk for heatwaves and bushfires

    Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government had accepted either in principle or in full all 37 recommendations the reviews have made.

    Importantly, she said the reports include the views of more than 500 members of communities directly affected.

    “In the 2018/19 season, Queensland was hit by 11 separate natural disasters,” the Premier said.

    “We continue to fight another – the drought.

    “In a short amount of time communities have come a long way in recovering from the bushfires and the monsoonal trough which is thanks to a lot of hard work.

    “But the best way to get ready for the next natural disaster is to learn from the last.”

    Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said no-one could argue with the reviews’ key finding.

    “It’s there in black and white - ‘exceptional’ – and the way our emergency workers, communities and councils came together is truly worthy of the word,” the Minister said.

    QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said QFES had also undertaken their own internal review which complimented the findings of the IGEM report.

    “I’m confident with the actions QFES will take following these recommendations, and the work already being undertaken, QFES will be stronger than ever,” he said.

    Flood recommendations include: 

    • Better management of evacuation centres especially for vulnerable people and better communication with those in the centres
    • Ongoing development of online ‘dashboards’ as a local point of truth in disasters
    • Better co-ordination of offers of help and donations

    Bushfire recommendations include

    • $16 million over 4 years in 19-20 budget to improve bushfire management in state national parks and forests
    • More Fire Behaviour Analysts
    • ‘One-Stop-Shop’ for help and advice on fire breaks

    ENDS

    Shane Doherty

    0439 624 473

     

    BUSHFIRE REVIEW

    Between November 22 and December 6, 1250 bushfires burned throughout Queensland.

    They were fought by

    • 3500 Qld firefighters
    • 1200 from interstate along with
    • 500 Qld Parks and Wildlife Officers

    Prior to June 2018, there had been a long period of below average rainfall and above average temperatures.

    A ‘mid-tropospheric anticyclone’ dried out ground level moisture. These conditions are comparable to those before Victoria’s Black Saturday.

    ‘A huge pool of extremely hot air developed over central and south-western Queensland.’

     

    RECORD HEAT

    Between November 25 and Nov 30 QAS attended an additional 2,453 call-outs for heat-related incidents (p39)

    Cairns recorded its five highest November maximums on successive days between November 26 and 30. November 26 was Cairns’ hottest day since 1971 – 42.6 degrees, smashing the 37.2 degree record by a massive 5.4 degrees.

    On November 28 Rockhampton recorded hot westerly winds of 51.8 km/hr – the highest in 26 years. Cyclone Marcia produced winds of 76 km/hr.

    For the first time Queensland’s fire risk was described as ‘catastrophic.’

    “Rainforests are unburnable. So if a rainforest is burning that’s really significant. For them to he burning up is telling how extreme the fire weather conditions are” (p76)

    At the peak of the emergency (Nov 25 and 26) more than 200 fires were burning between the state’s far north and Stradbroke Island.

     

    FUEL LOADS

    Completion of targeted hazard reduction burns was higher than in the previous two years.

    “In high or very high hazard exposure areas 68% had mitigation activities completed up from 52% in 2017 and 41% in 2016” (p76)

    Between January 1 and December 6, 20,000 fire permits were issued for controlled burns.

     

    LAWS ABOUT FIRE BREAKS

    The report notes laws about construction of fire breaks are unchanged.

    “Exemptions to Vegetation Management Laws (allowing construction of fire breaks) have been in place since 2014. Changes made to the vegetation management laws do not affect those exemptions” (p71)

    An education campaign has already begun ahead of the coming fire season about fire breaks.

     

    MONSOON TROUGH

    Between Australia Day and February 9 2019 an intense slow-moving monsoon and tropical lows brought unprecedented rainfall across a wide area of northern and western Queensland.

    Some locations received their yearly rainfall in a matter of days.

    Townsville received 1259.8 mm in the 10 days to February 8. The previous record was 925.5 mm (January 1953)

    The resulting floods were estimated as between a one-in-500 and one-in-1000 year event.

    70 locations broke rainfall records.

    Paluma, Woolshed and Upper Bluewater received more than 2000mm in 12 days

    Ross River Dam reached 248% capacity

    100 million hectares of Queensland was activated under Disaster Recovery Arrangements

    39 Local Government Areas were activated for disaster recovery

    1.5 million text and 230,000 voice messages were sent to warn people during the event.

    3,369 residences were damaged including 1,255 left uninhabitable.

    37,693 people received help at recovery hubs

    1800 people were assisted with housing support

    There were 66,256 calls to the Community Recovery Hotline

    162,000 items donated to help those affected

     

    ROSS RIVER DAM

    Operation of the Ross River Dam was a key focus of the report.

    There was speculation earlier releases would have lessened flooding.

    The report finds to the contrary.

    “Arguably there would have been increased flooding’ had the dam been operated differently and ‘the impacts would not have differed appreciably ….had an increased volume of water been released earlier.” (p13)

    ENDS