Radio 2CC - Bemboka RFS, Celeste Barber, 100 days since Royal Commission

Radio 2CC - Bemboka RFS, Celeste Barber, 100 days since Royal Commission Main Image

05 February 2021

Friday, 5 February, 2021


LEON DELANEY, PRESENTER: Earlier today I spoke with the former ACT ESA Commissioner Peter Dunne, who said he was disappointed by the lack of action 100 days on from the release of the bushfire Royal Commission.

And instead of good news we are hearing reports out of Bega Valley Shire of fire trucks that are so exhausted, they can barely make it up hills. Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain has raised this issue with the New South Wales Emergency Services Minister David Elliot more than six months ago, and apparently is yet to receive a response. Well, Kristy McBain if David Elliot won't talk to you. I'm happy to say I will. Good afternoon.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good afternoon Leon, how are you?

DELANEY: Very well. Thanks. Thanks for joining us today. What's the story with these old tired exhausted trucks?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, our RFS volunteers do such an amazing job. But they are hamstrung sometimes by the equipment they have. And you know, Bemboka RFS is an RFS group that covers such a huge patch, they've had two major bushfires in the space of 15 months, they actually have a very good complement of volunteers.

And it's just really disappointing that given the 52 odd million dollars that Celeste Barber has raised, that we have a situation where new trucks aren't available for Bemboka.

DELANEY: The quote in the story that I've seen comes from a concerned individual who said that fire calls on top of Brown Mountain are going to Nimmitabel because "our fire truck can't go faster than 30 kilometres per hour up Brown. And that's if it makes it." I mean, that sounds pretty dire.

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, the Bemboka guys do an absolutely amazing job, as I said that two major bushfires in 16 months, and they have, you know, really excelled in our community. But they need the equipment that is up to date, they need to make sure that they have that personal protective equipment inside the vehicle, I need to make sure that they have retractable hoses, which would be helpful.

And some of the equipment that they currently have, obviously isn't up to the level that they want, and that they need, you know, given that as I said, we've had two major bush fires. And, you know, it's not like we don't have a climate around it, where things are changing. So we'll continue to pursue it with the New South Wales state government, because we deserve the equipment that these guys need.

DELANEY: Yeah, the trucks described in this story are more than 20 years old, one of them is almost 30 years old. And obviously, they've seen a few kilometres over the years, haven't? So it's no surprise that they might perhaps be getting a little worn out. But it was also reported that some of the equipment on the trucks does not work. So that's doubly disappointing, isn't it?

MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I think only one of the trucks currently has working air conditioning.

And, you know, if, you know, you were inside those trucks, dealing with some of the conditions that these guys were dealing with the last summer season. You know, that's pretty harsh, as I said, but only one of them has a retractable hose. We don't ask for much in the region’s, but decent firefighting equipment is definitely high on our priority list, given what's happened to us over the last couple of years.

DELANEY: Absolutely. And I'm told here that you haven't heard back from David Elliot, any idea why that is? Is he got something else on these?

MCBAIN: I did receive a response, it wasn't from his office from another office, which basically said, things will be assessed on a needs basis. And while I don't know what's more important than the needs of a local community, especially when the request is coming directly from the Bemboka RFS. So as I said, we'll continue to follow it up because we need to make sure these guys are better equipped.

DELANEY: And of course, you've acknowledged the great work of all the volunteers, but the other thing to acknowledge is the efforts of the community who raise funds to help the volunteers, don't they?

MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. We've got amazing local communities, and community groups and service clubs, right around the region and so many of them do such a great job in raising funds for the local RFS so they can purchase additional equipment.

But as I said, you know, these Cat One tankers don't come with a small price tag and that's probably above the amount that our volunteers and service clubs can fundraise on their own. And as I said, there was a lot of fundraising done by the likes of Celeste Barber, which has gone to the RFS. And I really hope that some of these local communities that have been impacted the most during the Black Summer Fires will be the beneficiary of that RSF funding.

DELANEY: That would be nice. Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, I did speak earlier today with Peter Dunne, the former ACT ESA Commissioner, he's expressed his disappointment about the lack of action 100 days on from the release of the Bushfire Royal Commission, you've made very similar remarks. You're concerned also about the lack of action from the federal government. Obviously, these things take time, but you'd expect perhaps something a little bit more encouraging by this stage, wouldn't you?

MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. And Leon that comes on the back of 270 other enquiries into bushfires and natural disasters. And, you know, the government wanted to proceed with this royal commission. When a lot of other people just thought it's time to put money in action and in place from the other enquiries that have taken place.

But now you've got the Royal Commission, you've got those recommendations, we are now three and a bit months on and still nothing's taken place. And, you know, this week alone with the fires that we're seeing in Perth with over 70 homes lost - a situation where you've had to fly fire retardant from the Richmond RAF based in New South Wales over to WA I mean, there's a clear need for a national aerial firefighting fleet. There's a clear a bit of coordination of resources. And, you know, there are 70 recommendations and we need to get on with them.

DELANEY: In deed, thanks very much for joining us today.

MCBAIN: Thanks Leon.

Media contact, Ian Campbell, phone 0417 482 171