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This final report of the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce explains the journey from the damaging bushfires of January 2013, to the stage now where we have largely withdrawn from the task of supporting community recovery.
With any major setback, there will be identifiable stages in the recovery process. Initially there is uncertainty, with significant external support needed in the community. Gradually, the necessary levels of support and dependence lessens until the stage is reached where support services should, and ultimately must, withdraw, as independence and self sufficiency become the order of the day.
This report details how we have reached this stage, explains what lies ahead for the people and communities affected by the 2013 fires, and outlines the lessons we have learnt along the way.
Natural disasters and their impacts on the communities affected by them vary greatly. But the common experience is that natural disasters demonstrate the inner strength of the affected communities and the generosity of the wider community. I can say this with confidence because that has been demonstrated throughout our involvement in the recovery process.
The focus of the Tasmanian Government and all involved in this recovery process has been to encourage and empower the communities to lead and own the recovery process. I wish to congratulate and thank all members of the communities and their representatives for the way in which they embraced this task.
The State Government plans for emergency management and disaster relief and recovery were seriously tested for the first time by the fires of January 2013. Therefore much of what has been done, for the first time, should be examined to distil the lessons and, where necessary, improve our responses in the future.
For this reason, as we progressed through 2013 we took note of any changes or improvements we could make, and then conducted a rigorous review process at the end of 2013 and early 2014 to ensure that those involved in or affected by the recovery process could also add their comments and suggestions. This report identifies key learnings from that process to assist future efforts.
In brief, the speedy restoration of infrastructure and services, electricity, water, roads and access, the rapid and focussed clean up of sites through a single contract, and the erection of a temporary school all helped immensely. The volunteers, professionals, government staff, agencies and community representatives and residents and those from outside Tasmania who worked in the frontlines and stayed for the long haul deserve particular thanks, as do all the charitable and community organisations who, when marshalled, constitute a tremendous recovery asset. On behalf of the Taskforce, the Bushfire Recovery Unit and the fire-affected communities, I wish to thank all of you. You are too numerous to mention individually.
I also wish to record my appreciation for the support of the Tasmanian Government in every aspect of the recovery operations. The effectiveness, professionalism and dedication of the staff involved in the recovery process made a difficult task very manageable. Thank you.
Finally, I thank all members of the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce and the Bushfire Recovery Unit. The Unit was the ‘engine room’ of the recovery effort; it was led and all within it went about their tasks, particularly in the more challenging times, with drive and enthusiasm. We have learnt from the exercise, but the lessons for the future are considerably fewer than they might have been because of their skill and professionalism. It has been a privilege to work with you and among the no-nonsense problem solving members of the affected communities and their representatives.
Damian Bugg AM QC
Bushfire Recovery Taskforce