Keelty to lead inquiry into SA bushfire response

Former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty will oversee a broad-ranging review of South Australia’s bushfire preparedness in the wake of the devastating Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills blazes.

Jan 28, 2020, updated Jan 28, 2020
Smoke rises from burning hay bales on Kangaroo Island. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

Smoke rises from burning hay bales on Kangaroo Island. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

Premier Steven Marshall announced the appointment today, saying the inquiry would start immediately.

It follows calls from SA Best crossbencher Frank Pangallo for a parliamentary review into the two incidents.

Keelty, who was last year appointed interim Inspector-General of Murray–Darling Basin Water Resources, will look into SA’s “preparedness for dealing with significant bushfire activity and what can be done to mitigate the impact of bushfires on our communities into the future”.

He will be supported by the SA Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM) as well as advisors seconded from the emergency services sector.

Marshall said while the bushfire season isn’t over yet and “there remains a risk of further bushfire activity in the coming months, it’s important to start looking into how the state can adapt and learn from recent events”.

“This season has been particularly difficult and devastating for dozens of communities with huge losses never experienced before,” he said in a statement.

“This is about ensuring our state is as ready and prepared as we can be for further significant bushfires.

“We know there is still a long road to recovery and that our dedicated firefighters are still on high alert, but if we can take something valuable from what we have lived through then we will be better placed to respond in years to come.”

Emergency Services Minister Corey Wingard said the “broad-scope” review will look into preparation, planning, community resilience, response and recovery.

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“There are many areas on which we need to focus our attention to ensure we are appropriately positioned to respond to and recover from significant natural disaster events,” he said.

“Our emergency services have done an outstanding job these past few months and this inquiry will help identify any learnings that can be applied next season.”

Mick Keelty has conducted similar reviews in other states, including into the 2018 Bega Valley blazes in New South Wales.

“I look forward to the opportunity of working with the South Australian Government and those involved in the firefighting operations to review and analyse the bushfire season to improve bushfire preparedness for the future,” he said in a statement.

He’s expected to hand down his findings by the end of June.

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