Bushfires in NSW: An Update
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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper 10/2010 by Daniel Montoya
This briefing paper summarises the legislative and administrative bushfire management arrangements in NSW and examines the key findings from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
An overview of bushfire management in NSW
Between 1994 and 2010 there have been a number of bushfire inquiries, along with a range of legislative and administrative changes. Extreme bushfires in NSW, the ACT and Victoria were the impetus for several of these developments. [2.0]
NSW bushfire related legislation
Several significant legislative amendments have been made since 2002 to improve bushfire management in NSW. A new offence was introduced to the Crimes Act 1900: causing a bushfire (s 203E). The Rural Fires Act 1997 has been amended to: improve bushfire management, including via improved integration with the planning system; increase penalties for some offences; increase the powers by which the Rural Fire Commissioner can investigate suspected arson cases; and streamline the administration of rural fire services funding. Improved bushfire management administration has also been achieved through amendment of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. [3.0]
NSW bushfire administration
Several administrative bodies are involved in bushfire management in NSW. Three bodies are responsible for bush fire fighting and mitigation services: the NSW Rural Fire Service; the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and State Forests of NSW. Planning instruments under the Rural Fires Act 1997 are administered by the Rural Fire Service. Local councils are required to comply with these instruments. [4.0]
NSW Rural Fire Service capacity
Funding for the NSW Rural Fire Service has progressively increased since 2004. The area of NSW annually subject to bushfire hazard reduction recently increased from approximately 108,000 hectares to 124,000 hectares in 2007/08. [5.0]
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
Key recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission into the bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, are identified. They concern such issues as: bushfire safety policy; planning and bushfire management; a retreat and resettlement strategy; bushfire hazard reduction; and fire services funding. Key recommendations that attracted considerable debate or are of particular relevance to NSW are discussed. [6.0]