NATIONAL PARK BUSHFIRE PREVENTION
Mr McMANUS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for the Environment. What action is the National Parks and Wildlife Service taking to reduce the dangers of bushfires in our national parks this summer?
Ms ALLAN: It is almost one year since I reported to the House on the preparedness of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service for the bushfire season. At that time I informed the House it was then at its highest level of preparedness for any bushfire season. The invisible Minister has great pleasure in informing the House today that over the past 12 months, thanks to a record budget allocation, the NPWS is fast becoming a world leader in bushfire planning and management, and further consolidating its position for the next bushfire season. Despite the fire season having been brought forward one month the service is fully prepared for any fire threat.
For the first time the efforts in combating bushfires will be managed by a new high-tech fire coordination centre called PARKOPS to be based at the NPWS head office at Hurstville. This centre cost approximately $100,000 to establish and is equipped with state-of-the-art computer technology, radios and geographic information systems. PARKOPS will coordinate all NPWS fire response throughout the State in the next bushfire season. The centre will enable the service to monitor fires regardless of where they occur in the State. It will be linked to state-of-the-art automatic weather stations in key locations as well. The good news is, despite the apparent mirth of the Opposition, there are many hundreds of thousands of people in regional and rural New South Wales who are also very interested in making sure that the NPWS is at its peak performance in fighting bushfires over the next bushfire season.
To achieve that the service has worked very closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to ensure the system to be put in place works compatibly with the Bureau of Meteorology system. The NPWS will be able not only to more accurately predict the location of fires but also to plan for them. The Government has allocated over half a million dollars to construct 10 of these weather stations at strategic locations throughout the State. PARKOPS is an excellent example of the Government's recognition of the importance of providing adequate resources to the NPWS to ensure that the State's national parks, and also neighbours to the national parks, are safe from bushfires.
Unlike the former Government, this Government is actually resourcing the NPWS so that it is well equipped to fight fires in the forthcoming bushfire season. As many members of this Parliament are aware, in February this year there was a coronial inquiry into the January 1994 bushfires. I remind members of the House, particularly those on the other side who may have forgotten, during the period 1989-93 the inquiry found:
Interestingly, the coroner went on further and put the blame for the fires fairly and squarely in the laps of the former coalition Government. To quote directly from the coronial inquiry, the coroner said:
The fuel was not managed as intended by Parliament and high fuel loads were principally responsible for the uncontrollable fires.
that is, of the former coalition Government -
The appropriate Ministers -
Despite the groans from the other side, that is not a situation that will be repeated by the current Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the National Party will cease interjecting. I place the honourable member for Burrinjuck on three calls to order.
Ms ALLAN: In fact, over the last 12 months $3 million has been spent on fire trail maintenance by the NPWS. The Opposition does not like it because it is the truth. The reality is that when in office coalition Ministers ignored this problem and this Government is acting to correct the situation. This means that the Government has been working over the last 12 months to get into readiness over 5,000 kilometres of trails so the service will be fully equipped to deal with the next bushfire season.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has already undertaken hazard reduction of over 80,000 hectares. That wonderful record of performance over the past 12 months contrasts starkly with the record of the previous Government. The Government has recently spent $2 million upgrading the radio network of the NPWS so it is fully equipped to deal
with bushfires anywhere in the State. In fact, over the last 12 months a record $6 million has been spent getting the service ready for the next season. The Government has also worked very hard with those who are neighbours of national parks right around the State. The honourable member for Burrinjuck does not like to hear this. Obviously people are pleased with this Government's performance. I compliment my colleague responsible for emergency services and fire services, the Hon. Bob Debus. We are happy to work cooperatively with his agencies to ensure that this year both those services will be the best equipped they have ever been for bush fire fighting.
were aware that section 41A plans were not being prepared and approved, and were also aware of the existence of heavy fuel loads.