Catastrophic fire conditions

12th November 2019

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (17:33:43): I speak to this very important public interest debate on the fires and critical, unique situation we are experiencing in New South Wales right now. This situation has been called "unprecedented" and it is very clear that that is the case. That said, many of us have experienced dramatic bushfires within our electorates over the years. We have seen the resilience of our communities. But I think none of us has seen fires on such a broad scale across New South Wales, with a threat of the fires escalating to even greater levels.

I will start by acknowledging the Government's response, which I believe is appropriate. Whilst things have not become as critical as had been feared, that is due in large part to the good work of those working in this space and the measures that were taken by the Premier and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. I acknowledge the Government and all of those in the agencies. We have all heard of the great work of Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers. They have been doing fantastic work. Those people at the coalface who are defending our communities deserve a great deal of thanks, if not the vast majority of our thanks.

In Lake Macquarie there are currently five fires burning, three of which have opened up fronts this afternoon. It is very likely that they will spread, particularly through ember attack. Another 12 fires are burning in the Hunter region. One of those, near Greta in the electorate of the member for Cessnock, is out of control. I am sure all members wish the people there all the best and that the fire is controlled and does not cause too much damage. Of course, we are seeing huge property loss and a huge impact on the natural environment. People's properties are being destroyed. The memorabilia and documents in their houses are being lost. Most worrying is the injury and death that has occurred recently. We do not want to see that to occur to members of the public.

The members of the NSW Rural Fire Service [RFS] and the emergency services are putting themselves at risk to assist us. I acknowledge, as a special request, the member for Ballina. I know there are other members away from Parliament today and I acknowledge all the members—particularly those who have electorates on the mid North Coast and the North Coast—who have been under incredible pressure in their electorates. The member for Ballina asked that I put on record that she is out there supporting her electorate today, with fires in the southern and western borders of her electorate threatening rural villages in her community. She extends the utmost gratitude and praise to her local RFS, police and State Emergency Service for an unbelievable response.

I acknowledge our Local Emergency Operations Controller [LEOCON], Daniel Sullivan. I imagine the Minister for Police and Emergency Services knows of him. I know the member for Terrigal does. He is a brilliant local area commander. He has taken over as LEOCON and this morning at 7 o'clock he opened the emergency operations centre. He has told me that that will stay open until at least 10 o'clock tonight, when the situation will be reassessed. I do not think that we could do better than the volunteers and the services that we have in this State. The issue of resources and those sorts of things will be a matter for debate but I have not had any complaints from my local RFS members about the resourcing from the Government. I have seen a rollout of a new fleet and new equipment. I hope that that has happened across the board. I acknowledge our brigades, Killingworth, Awaba, Wakefield, Cooranbong, Martinsville, Mandalong, Morisset Peninsula, Dora Creek, Wyee and Wyee Point, and all Rural Fire Service brigades around New South Wales, who are working hard to protect our communities.

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