Bushfires Royal Commission to examine government coordination; zoning; building standards

Image shows a melted sign for Mogo zoo and burnt forest.

The Royal Commission into the bushfires of summer 2019-20 will examine areas including the responsibilities and coordination between Australia’s three levels of government, and how they share resources.

Formally known as the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, its Terms of Reference include land management, land-use planning, zoning and development approval including building standards, urban safety, public infrastructure and the incorporation of natural disaster considerations.

The terms do not mention reducing emissions, an action many Local Governments around Australia are already taking, or have announced plans for, because of concerns from their communities.

“The inquiry acknowledges climate change, the broader impact of our summers getting longer, drier and hotter and is focussed on practical action that has a direct link to making Australians safer,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on 20 February.

“That’s why we need to look at what actions should be taken to enhance our preparedness, resilience and recovery through the actions of all levels of government and the community, for the environment we are living in.”

The commission will also examine findings and recommendations from previous inquiries and other reports in the states and territories, and whether any of their recommendations were not enacted.

The three Commissioners, led by Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC (Retd), will call for public submissions from March, and are expected to hold public hearings in a number of locations across the country.  

ALGA, which has advocated for fire-affected councils at the national level since early January and is in regular contact with the Minister for Natural Disasters and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, will consider issues related to the Royal Commission at its Board meeting in March.

Prime Minister Morrison said he wanted the Royal Commission to start as soon as possible and present its final report by August 31, “so recommendations can be acted upon before our next bushfire season.”