A Select Committee has been chosen to examine controversial changes proposed for the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005.
In particular, changes that extend the powers of the Country Fire Service to refrain persons from activities that may cause a fire under Amendment to Section 82 – Power to Direct in the Fire and Emergency Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018.
The proposed changes continue to create angst among the farming community, highlighted in recent comments made on Stock Journal’s facebook page.
Chris Heinjus, Rural Directions, said the Fire Danger Index already worked “so why the change?”
“A large percentage of farmers do the smart thing and proactively manage risk,” he said. “There are one-percenters in all walks. They will remain one-percenters with or without legislation.
“The harvesting code currently puts a science-based line in the sand. CFS volunteers do not want to be police.”
Jamie Tiller, Balaklava, agreed, saying most farmers followed the FDI, but not all.
“These farmers are stuffing it up for all of us,” he said. “Either someone needs the power to stop these idiots or cop some hefty fines. I don’t want SA to end up like WA with 24-hour (harvest) bans.”
Tim Stockman, Burra, was also concerned that harvest bans were edging closer.
He believes everyone should abide by regional weather stations to all be on the same page. “Then there is no excuse,” he said.
While Jimi Bascomb at Poonindie believes the CFS should “only get involved when there is smoke”.
“There's no need to have them do more work when they aren't required as there are already educated farmers on the ground to make this decision,” he said.
He says a Wudinna fire initiative, where four farmers from within the district make the call on a harvest ban and then inform the rest of the district, should become the “norm”.
“What needs to be legislated from then is that those four farmers notify the police that there is a harvest ban in place and if the police hear of anybody in the district harvesting during the ban they get a fine,” he said.
The Select Committee will be chaired by Member for Flinders Peter Treloar, who said the parliamentary inquiry would “provide an opportunity for anyone affected by the proposed changes to put their views forward”.
“The powers proposed in this bill aim to ensure our CFS are properly equipped to prevent bushfire risks,” he said. “The committee will investigate the possible implications of these powers for people across SA.”
Mr Treloar will work through public submissions alongside Liberal colleagues Member for Heysen Joshua Teague and Member for Finniss David Basham, Opposition Primary Industries spokesman Eddie Hughes (Member for Giles) and former Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell (Member for Mawson).
Public hearings will also be held in Adelaide and across regional SA in February.
“The committee welcomes the opportunity to discuss the proposed changes, which will inform its recommendations to the state government,” Mr Treloar said.
The CFS were contacted for comment but declined.