The Gauge | Opinion
Drought is testing our resilience yet again and the recent fires in NSW, Queensland and South Australia are a reminder of the brutal force of Mother Nature.
In northern Australia producers are exposed to these challenges but on a much larger scale and with fewer services in support.
A key weapon in assisting pastoralists to control fires is the Northern Australia and Rangelands Fire Information Service known as NAFI.
The NAFI service is hosted by Charles Darwin University and provides satellite-based maps of active fire locations and burnt areas (fire scars) that are uniformly accurate across northern Australia and the rangelands.
The service aids understanding of fire patterns, fuel loads and opportunities for controlled burning and planning, coordination and cooperation within and between communities on rural fire management.
It is also used to manage fires in Indigenous land, National Parks and on defence land; and by state agencies, such as Main Roads departments, to assist in the management of fire prone areas.
NAFI therefore plays a key role in saving millions of dollars a year through the protection of livestock, fodder and infrastructure at a very low cost to the taxpayer.
However, all of NAFI's funding is due to end on June 30 next year putting this important and cost-effective service at risk.
The Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management Ministers is developing a National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework.
State and Territory ministers have agreed in principle to fully match the Commonwealth's funding commitment of $130.5 million over five years to support the objectives of the Framework.
This will deliver a combined package of $261 million over the next five years for local, state and national initiatives to reduce the risk and impact of disasters on Australians, and strengthen their resilience in a changing environment.
NAFI is aligned closely with the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework and an ideal candidate for some of these funds.
In accordance with the Framework the NAFI service has the capability, technology and is actively applied to:
- guide regional efforts to proactively reduce disaster risk in order to minimise the loss and suffering caused by large fires.
- deliver trusted and authoritative disaster risk information and services to inform operational and strategic decisions, and
- respond to identified immediate and long-term disaster risks and related challenges.
NAFI has also identified further actions to meet the growing fire risk:
- Collaborating with other fire data providers such as Geoscience Australia, QDES, Landgate WA, NASA and the University of Maryland to develop new fire scar mapping products to meet the needs of fire managers into the future.
- Back-mapping fire scars in areas like southern Qld and South Australia to fill the current gaps and produce a uniform fire history for the rangelands that can be used for planning and reporting.
- Working with the fire agencies, fire data providers and end users to plan a way forward for the longer-term provision of fire data to rangelands land and fire managers.
The NAFI service fits comfortably into the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework within federal Home Affairs portfolio. Operationally the service should continue to operate out of Darwin.
It is time for the Morrison Government to give this important service a permanent home and secure funding.
- Troy Setter is the CEO of the Consolidated Pastoral Company and the newly elected chair of LiveCorp
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