The Inspector-General for Emergency Management recommends that Emergency Management Victoria – in collaboration with the community and emergency management sector:
a) updates the 2012–13 State Emergency Risk Assessment to include strategic and operational elements of emergency management. This should consider:
- the place-based risk assessment development through the community emergency risk assessment process
- consequence management capability across the sector
- existing risk models for natural and human-induced hazards.
b) provides guidance and support for the sector on how to incorporate the updated risk assessment in emergency management planning, policy development, decision-making and assurance activities.
DELWP will work with road and rail managers, local government and other stakeholders to ensure clarity on regulatory controls and deliver efficient approvals processes relevant to activities to reduce bushfire risk, such as permitted native vegetation removal and permits to burn off while ensuring environmental protections are maintained.
Victoria’s native vegetation clearing regulations determine that a permit is usually required to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation, however exemptions are available to road and rail organisations to manage vegetation to mitigate bushfire risks.
IGEM’s 2021 progress report noted that DELWP had developed surveys for road and rail managers to confirm:
- if they are aware of the current exemptions, and if so utilise them
- what hurdles prevent the use of these exemptions
- what improvements could be made.
Following the circulation of the surveys in July 2021, DELWP compiled the results to identify improvements to native vegetation regulation processes, and in September 2021 developed an implementation plan.
DELWP has updated guidance material for road and rail managers to strengthen their understanding of existing Clause 52.17 exemptions enabling bushfire risk mitigation activities to proceed without a permit.
Relevant bushfire mitigation activities include:
- planned burning, including any requirements to obtain a permit to burn
- making or maintenance of a fuel break or firefighting access track (or a combination thereof) that does not exceed a combined width of 6 metres
- compliance with section 65 of the Forests Act 1958 or section 41 of the Country Fire Authority Act 1958
- minimising the risk to life and property from bushfire on a roadside of public land managed by the relevant responsible road authority in accordance with the written agreement by the Secretary DELWP.
The guidance also informs rail and road managers of their obligations under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. DELWP advised that this guidance will be available shortly on its website.
All rail managers engaged through the project indicated that they were able to deliver bushfire risk mitigation activities under an exemption in an efficient manner. Approximately half of road managers surveyed considered the exemption process inefficient, while the other consider it efficient.
To enable quicker approval times, DELWP is amending the process for road managers to rely on the fire protection (roadside fuel reduction) exemption in Clause 52.17 by clarifying and streamlining what is required to obtain permission to rely on the exemption. DELWP expects these changes to be completed by December 2022.
IGEM notes that DELWP will consider opportunities to remove legal and regulatory barriers for landholders to undertake fuel management (including the fire permit system) as part of the review of fuel management legislative frameworks (refer to FSIP1 Action 2.2).