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Council laws key to fire prevention

Council laws key to fire prevention

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has called upon local governments to create a legal framework which takes into account the risk of bushfires in local planning and building laws.In…

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has called upon local governments to create a legal framework which takes into account the risk of bushfires in local planning and building laws.

In its final report, released on Saturday (31 July), the Commission made a total of 67 recommendations, including that states and the Commonwealth render assistance and guidance to municipal councils on how to resolve competing tensions - largely between conservation of the environment and the mitigation of bushfire risk - arising from legislation affecting roadside clearing.

"These concerns would be reduced if the State's planning provisions were amended to facilitate a broad range of roadside works to reduce bushfire risk, if municipal councils received better guidance to help them resolve competing environmental and bushfire management objectives, and if VicRoads implemented a systematic statewide assessment of bushfire risk for all roads," says the report.

The Commission also recommended amendments to environmental protection legislation in order to facilitate annual bushfire-prevention activities, as well as the enactment of state legislation to appoint a Fire Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

According to the Commission, implementation of the recommendations will require significant effort from all levels of government, particularly local councils, which it hopes will take a leading role in creating an adequate legal framework.

In an official statement released on Saturday by the Federal Attorney-General's department, the Australian Government welcomed the report, commending the Commission for the work undertaken since the February 2009 fires, which claimed the lives of 173 people.

The Federal Government has agreed to carefully examine all of the Commission's recommendations, on top of those already implemented following the Commission's August 2009 Interim Report, and said it remains committed to ongoing cooperation with the Victorian Government and the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Agency (VBRRA).

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