Media Releases

Media releases from the Office of Susan Templeman MP.

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ABC News Radio Interview on the December Bushfires

December 06, 2019


PRESLAND: From one emergency to another in NSW Firefighters who are trying to put out blazes along the state’s East Coast continue to face difficult conditions. Property losses will be assessed today in the wake of seven fires that yesterday were rated at emergency level. Today most concern centres around fires north of Sydney on the State’s Central Coast, in the Hawkesbury and Hunter Regions, and on the South Coast, north of Batemans Bay. Fires have been impacting the Blue Mountains Electorate of Federal MP Susan Templeman on several fronts this week, and Susan Templeman joins us now, thank you very much for your time

TEMPLEMAN: Thanks Mandy.

PRESLAND:  What parts of your electorate are causing the most concern?

TEMPLEMAN: The Hawkesbury that you mentioned then, the Gospers Mountain Fire, that’s in it its sixth week. It’s already hit 250 000 hectares of area, so that is huge and it is causing some concern today and it was yesterday. The Blue Mountains Fire - a lot of work is being done there, that one is below Katoomba. It’s not having the same sort of impact on the township of Katoomba, but it is certainly keeping fire fighters very busy monitoring and trying to control and contain where it heads.

PRESLAND: For those who are forced from their properties, what are their options? Where are they likely to go?

TEMPLEMAN: So at this stage there hasn’t been anyone asked or recommended to leave in the Blue Mountains – its really business as usual in the Blue Mountains for most people. But in the Hawkesbury, Colo Heights has had its second or third emergency fire warning where people were encouraged to move south towards Wilberforce. Now, many people tell me they’re going to family and friends, and I think we need to keep in mind the numbers are relatively small compared to the sort of things we’ve seen up the north. It’s a huge area but a very sparse population. So, a lot of people are staying to protect their properties, and the great resources of the RFS, parks and wildlife, fire and rescue, SES and the local people staying and protecting has probably been one of the reasons we’ve only had fairly small property losses – three in that region so far.

So people are going to family and friends, council did offer for there to be a go to place for this latest one that flared up last night, and a few people sought help there, but by and large people are very resourceful and heading to family and friends for some respite.

PRESLAND: There’s ongoing debate Susan bout whether the issue of climate change should be linked to the expanding bushfire seasons in the past few years, and even whether it should be raised during this current emergency. Where do you stand on that debate?

TEMPLEMAN: I’ve got no doubt that what we are seeing is exacerbated by climate change, and the changes we are seeing in conditions. You know, I lost my house in the 2013 bushfires in the Blue Mountains, and it was pretty clear to us then that the fire was unusual. And that’s the term I’m hearing firefighters use a lot, very experienced fire fighters talk about unusual fire behaviour. They talk about how dry the ground is in this very long drought – not just the top little layer but how deep the dryness goes. So the conditions are surprising fire fighters, and I think we need to really learn, I think we need to just accept the fact that of course conditions are changing and that’s as a result of climate change. And we’ve got those big policy issues to look at, but more pragmatically, we need to adjust and adapt what we do on the ground to prepare for and tackle these fires, and hopefully they don’t become the new normal. But we need to think of things like a permanent fleet of fire fighting craft based somewhere like the Richmond RAAF Base, a central place on the eastern seaboard. So there’s a lot of lessons that will come at the appropriate time out of this very extraordinary and unprecedented fire season.

PRESLAND: Are you satisfied with fire prevention measures in your electorate, given that it’s obviously becoming a smaller window for hazard reduction measures to be undertaken each year?

TEMPLEMAN: I certainly think the comments that former Fire Chief Greg Mullins and his colleagues have made are things that we need to listen to. I’m not an expert in how it should all work, but I do know that there have been really great efforts made over many years that I’ve lived in the Mountains, and I’ve lived in the Blue Mountains for nearly thirty years, to take the opportunity of hazard reductions in between fire seasons. But yes, those seasons where you can do it are getting shorter and shorter, and I think we have to have a serious conversation about how we do those. I recall one big hazard reduction burn being called off; ideal conditions but it was called off several years ago because there was a recognition that the smoke would have affected the City2Surf Race. Now, as a community, you know, this is not just about the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, this is about all of us. People in the city, people on the edge of the city, working out what our priorities need to be and we will have to make difficult decisions. And Governments are required to make difficult decisions. And so that’s one example. I think how we support people in fire affected areas is also something we’re getting better at, but there’s a lot we can do to improve it. Hawkesbury people who have lost homes, or whose businesses have been affected are not included in the combined State Commonwealth additional funding that’s been announced, and the State Government can’t really give me a reason why that’s so.

PRESLAND: I would imagine, given that you lost your home, as you said, in 2013, it gives you quite a different perspective compared to a lot of outsiders as to what the people are going through in those affected areas at the moment

TEMPLEMAN: Do you know in some ways I look at what’s happening here, our sixth week and Colo Heights having had weeks and weeks for instance of fire warning and preparation and then emergency level, and then it comes down again – I can’t imagine what they’re going through. My house burnt down in the space of a couple of hours from the time the fire started. We then had a few days afterwards when it was also emergency level but we didn’t lose any more houses in the Blue Mountains. So those 200 houses that we lost went pretty fast. But for these communities and for the fire fighters and volunteers from all the services I’m watching this is an emotionally and physically exhausting process. I was back in the control room at Hawkesbury today – I’ve had the respite of being in Parliament for a few days. They have had yet another week of enormous effort with making the most that they can of the resources they have, and I think we have to take our hats off to the extraordinary efforts of the staff and volunteers from all of these agencies. They are doing, in an unprecedented situation, an amazing job.