Military tactics to be used to fight bushfires

 

Military aerial tactics will be used to fight fires, the homeowner will be given more powers to clear their own land and grazing on national parks will be trialled in the biggest overhaul of the state's bushfire strategy in decades.

On Monday night NSW cabinet was told by Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott the government would accept all 76 recommendations - including examining more Indigenous cultural burning - of the independent inquiry into the black summer bushfires.

Landowners are considered "winners" in the review, a senior government source said, and will face less green tape and hassle when they want to undertake "protection" burns on their own land if they ­believe their property is at risk.

 

This will be the biggest overhaul of bushfire policy in decades. Picture: Dylan Robinson
This will be the biggest overhaul of bushfire policy in decades. Picture: Dylan Robinson

 

The review, conducted by former chief scientist Mary O'Kane and former deputy commissioner Dave Owens, also calls for increased hazard reduction to also be carried out at night.

It can be revealed the government will adopt a new trial of first-response aerial firefighting - reviving a classic military tactic of sending water bombing planes in as the first step in fighting a fire rather than a later assault on the blaze. The concept means firefighters will then go into a less intense blaze and further will have clearer intelligence about the fire's scale and movement.

Mr Elliott, who has himself performed military service, has told senior government figures this approach is a "military-style tactic", which NSW has the capacity to carry out with aviation assets.

 

RFS crews performing a hazard reduction burn. Picture: Dylan Robinson
RFS crews performing a hazard reduction burn. Picture: Dylan Robinson

 

The RFS trial of the project will identify the most appropriate and cost-effective mix of aircraft, and any infrastructure improvements required.

 

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott has led the discussions on the new approach. Picture: Bianca De Marchi
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott has led the discussions on the new approach. Picture: Bianca De Marchi

 

This aerial firefighting at night will also be trialled in the upcoming fire season.

Other key recommendations include extending hazard reduction so that it's carried out in optimal conditions during the week and at night, and commissioning research into other hazard reduction techniques.

Mr Elliott told cabinet he planned for the RFS to investigate and trial grazing on national parks and other protected asset zones - a major point of conflict between green and brown forces in the government.

The government will now undertake a three year research project on the practice, overseen by the chief scientist.

It is understood this was a compromise struck between Mr Elliott and environment Minister Matt Kean who has previously opposed the practice.

Other steps taken from the review include enhancing cultural land management by Indigenous people including cultural burning with a co-ordinated approach from government and wider implementation explored.

Originally published as Military tactics to be used to fight bushfires in new approach