Fresh evidence presented in Parliament could lead to new Inquiry.
Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, addressed the NSW Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, 10 May, highlighting National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS )fire-preparedness protocols were not followed prior and during the Wambelong bushfire.
Mr Humphries claims there were inadequate staffing levels for the forecast extreme weather experienced on Sunday, 13 January 2013.
“It is apparent from initial information available to the NPWS that it was well aware of the seriousness of the weather conditions and the potential for a fire outbreak,” Mr Humphries said.
“We know from the NPWS response, the inquiries and the statements that have been made, that one ranger was on duty when the duty roster called for at least 12.
“The one and only ranger who was on duty on the day that the fire ignited spent half the day away from the park.
“The NPWS did not comply with duty roster guidelines for extreme weather conditions, the regional manager did not consider suspending flexible leave and adjusting rosters to ensure maximum staffing levels, and it did not conduct a sufficient number of park patrols.”
In addition to this, Mr Humphries said the NPWS did not have water in its fire-fighting tanker or strategically place any fire-fighting equipment to enable a rapid fire response.
“With the fire rating at extreme, NPWS staff did not staff a single fire tower or observation point and no other ground- based detection measures were implemented,” Mr Humphries said.
“The NPWS did not provide a level of preparedness for bushfire suppression that was appropriate to mount a sufficient initial attack capability, given the existing and forecasted fire danger.”
This new information, compiled in a 27-page dossier, has been presented to Premier, Mike Baird, Minister for Emergency Services, David Elliott, and Minister for Environment, Mark Speakman.
Mr Humphries has also requested a new Inquiry to address liability and compensation claims.
“The Government's response, which covers both the upper House and the Coronial Inquiries into the Wambelong fire, is that further investigation is required,” Mr Humphries said.
“The Coronial Inquiry and the Upper House Inquiry were not about establishing liability for the fire, but I want to comment on the unbelievable efforts that were made by a number of people during and after the fire.
“I raised this matter because, to date, the Government has not acknowledged the claims of the Coonabarabran Property Owners Alliance (CPOA) that in the lead-up to this fire the NPWS was negligent in its duties and is liable for the outbreak, the resulting loss of property and damage to stock, and for ruining people’s livelihoods.
“As the number of our national parks is constantly growing the NPWS must be a good neighbour, lift its game and prepare for and suppress any fires that occur.
“There is still a lot more work to be done.”
Stephen Lill, member of the CPOA, said he was grateful for Mr Humphries support.
“The CPOA executive has been making these assertions [about the NPWS] for the last three years, but the Government and their Inquiries have failed to listen and to act on them,” Mr Lill said.
“The probable re- opening of the Legislative Council Inquiry by Senator Robert Brown and the involvement of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) will lead those in executive government to concede that the NPWS were culpably negligent in allowing this fire to start and then not be extinguished.
“I believe that the light at the end of our tunnel has become somewhat brighter and closer this past week.”
Blackburn’s Road was a charred mess following the 2013 Wambelong bushfire.