Disaster resilience support

Disaster resilience support

Funding to support disaster resilience in primary industries was highlighted last Friday at the South Australia Forest Products Association (SAFPA) disaster resilience summit in Mount Gambier.

The Limestone Coast Disaster Resilience Summit was attended by Minister for Primary Industries, Regional Development and Forest Industries Clare Scriven and Minister for Emergency Services Joe Szakacs.

Also attending the summit were delegates from across government, industry and the not-for-profit sector to enhance integrated preparedness across the disaster management spectrum.

SAFPA Governing Council Chair Tammy Auld said the disaster resilience summit was a great success, bringing together nearly 80 people from across different industries, government organisations, local authorities and state agencies.

“There have been some really great discussions throughout the day looking at how we can bring risk mitigation and fire response and planning to the forefront for our region, not only to protect our industries and our valuable asset but to protect our communities for the future and to protect our infrastructure that supports us,” she said.

A new pilot project led by the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) and Primary Producers SA (PPSA) has received $770,000 from the State Government’s Disaster Risk Reduction grant program to prepare the agricultural sector and mitigate the impacts of compounding and increasingly complex natural disasters.

Funded through a national partnership agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian governments, the project takes an industry-led approach to minimising disruptions to supply chains and maintaining the production and profitability of regional communities.

“This particular pilot is starting with dairy, forestry and wine grapes which will potentially set the path for similar programs with other parts of the industry for grains or livestock et cetera,” Minister Scriven said.

“It is an important partnership we have with PPSA in insuring that we do have the best opportunity to see where the vulnerabilities are and how they can best be addressed.

“This support is subsequent to the $26.7m investment made by the Malinauskas Government to increase the Country Fire Service’s aerial firefighting fleet, which for the first time has seen a Blackhawk helicopter with 4500L capacity for water and foam substantively based at Mount Gambier during the 2023/24 fire danger season.”

South Australian Country Fire Service chief Brett Loughlin said the Blackhawk helicopter based in Mount Gambier demonstrates the SA Government’s investment and commitment to safety for the community in the Lower South East.

“This platform is simply working in tandem with the additional fixed-wing water bomber and the two observation platforms that we have which ensures our complete package of response aircraft to supplement and support the amazing work that our men and women are doing on the front lines,” he said.

“The Blackhawk and the fixed wing water bombers have responded 20 times this fire season to fires in the South East and they have dropped over 660,000 litres of water on those fires.

“That amount of water dropped on those fires ensures the fires are kept smaller, ensures that it is safer for firefighters to operate and ensures we get better outcomes for the community and at the end of the day it is an important investment that is demonstrating the benefits for the community.

“We are very grateful for the investment to the lower South East and for our partnerships with the community, with forestry and with our colleagues in the metropolitan fire service.”

Additionally, the upgrade of the latest fire observation tower in Lucindale South has now been completed featuring game changing artificial intelligence (AI) technology now rolled out across the region.

The cameras are now fully operational at Comaum, Mount Benson, The Bluff, Carpenter Rocks, Mount Burr and Furner.

It is the first time the Pano AI system has been implemented commercially in Australia as part of the State Government’s $2.3m fire tower network upgrade project, with $1m targeting the new technology – and it has already been able to assist with early detection of several bushfires in the South East.

Ms Auld said while she was comfortable with the amount being done to protect the forest industry in the South East including the AI cameras, new advancements were always welcome.

“I am comfortable with the level of protection we have got at the moment however we are always keen to get more and I think not just more but get smarter about how we do it,” she said.

“The Minister quite rightly said ‘we can keep throwing money at this but it’s not always money that we need’ and I think this a really valid point that as a community we need to come together to protect our asset, our people, our community and our jobs for the future.

“That is what the summit was all about which is why SAFPA was very keen to pull all these important people together to start that conversation and have a look how we can help each other to invest in the right technology to get the best result and the right result for the future.”

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