Bushfires inquiry convenes for final week

The bushfires royal commission will begin its final week of hearings on Monday.
The bushfires royal commission will begin its final week of hearings on Monday.

The final hearing week of the royal commission into bushfires is set to focus on how national emergencies are declared and whether a single national agency is needed.

At the end of the week of hearings starting on Monday the royal commission will adjourn to finalise its report to present to Governor-General David Hurley by October 28.

Recent research by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC forecast wetter than average conditions through spring - a marked contrast to the conditions of the past two years.

As a result of the rain in August and the expectation of further rainfall in spring, it is anticipated that forest flammability will remain low over the coming months.

Fires that raged across 10 million hectares last summer took the lives of 33 Australians and destroyed 10,000 homes and other structures.

More than 80,000 head of livestock were destroyed and millions of native plants and animals were lost, including severe impacts on many World Heritage areas.

The royal commission appears on track to recommend what has been described as "a single, scalable standing body responsible for natural disaster recovery and resilience at the Australian government level".

Such a body would be responsible for Commonwealth recovery co-ordination, prioritisation, policy and collation of data through improved use of technology.

The inquiry is also considering how best to be able to declare a "national emergency" that has a more than symbolic role.

Clearing up lines of communication between the Australian Defence Force and the states and territories, as well as overcoming legal hurdles, is also expected to be high on the list of recommendations.

The royal commission is also working on recommendations regarding wildlife management, mental health, disaster recovery funding arrangements, land management, aerial firefighting and the use of emergency warning apps.

A number of witnesses have underlined the need to harness local knowledge and expertise in preparing for and responding quickly to bushfires.

Australian Associated Press