Defence Bushfire Briefing
16 January 2020
ELLWOOD: Good afternoon and thanks very much. Look, as we know, there were media reports that there was going to be significant weather, adverse weather, down in the southern regions over yesterday and today and there were reports that there may have been landslides. Obviously, that has not eventuated. Suffice it to say, though, we're remaining postured to support if, indeed, weather events do deteriorate and we do have any significant issues. We will be postured, ready to support the emergency management services.
Today, I'm going to be focussing on New South Wales. As some may know, I spoke about Victoria yesterday and tomorrow I will talk about South Australia as a focus item so today I visited Merimbula and Eden and saw a strike team in action. Now, it was very interesting going back to Merimbula and Eden. I was there several days after the surge had begun and it was a very different picture as when I was there the first time, very few people, there was obviously a lot of nervousness about the fires that were raging and today very different scene, you know, thriving and a resilient community getting back to business and I think that speaks volumes about the wonderful work of our emergency management services and what they've done and our volunteers but also the community.
Now, there are a couple of, I guess, human sides of what I've seen in New South Wales that I thought were worth talking about today. So we have Padre Muller who's from, that's where he was born and he has actually gone back to that very same town to provide pastoral care and I think for him it's very special to be able to do it but I note also that he had lost his house in the 2009 Black Saturday fires so he was obviously in a position to be able to understand how others are feeling at this moment and he's working very hard to provide pastoral care to those affected communities.
We have others, many others, who are working in communities where they were raised or where they have had family holidays previously and they're familiar with the areas. We have Leading Seaman Dunnett who is serving on the 'Adelaide' from and she also worked in Cobargo for a time and because she knows that area she's been able to provide that knowledge to the crew of the 'Adelaide' when they're planning their operations and just to essentially provide, I guess, that human side of the towns where they're working.
We recently had Navy clearance divers and heavy lift operators in the Army working together. That would not be a natural connection but for the purpose of this activity it was, indeed with the emergency management services, they came together to recover a downed RFS helicopter that crashed in the vicinity of Eden last week and I note that it actually went into the source of water for the local community so a significant operation, very important and just shows the teams that can form in these, sort of, very difficult times.
Then finally, I heard a story today when I was visiting the strike team that a group of soldiers just happened by a house or a property where the owner was not able to get off the property because of the fallen trees and he needed to get to his routine cancer treatment and so they quickly jumped in, cleared the path, cleared the road so he could get there and I think that is one of so many stories that we will not even hear about but people are just out there doing their best to try and help our emergency management services and the community.
Tasks going on in New South Wales, we have root clearance, we have fodder distribution, we have distribution of goods, water distribution, fire mapping, pastoral care and a number of other activities that are critical at the moment.
The statistics in New South Wales are very impressive. We have 1,633 people, 848 Reservists, we have 100 personnel from other countries, we have nine helicopters, three aircraft operating and obviously that changes depending upon the circumstances in the different areas. We have provided support to 23 Department of Human Services popups. We have provided thousands of litres of fuel, 410,000L of water. We have supported the construction of 7km of fire breaks and we have supported 58 affected communities, so a significant effort and the effort goes on to support the wonderful work of our emergency management services, the volunteers and the community. Are there any questions? No questions. Thank you very much.