Letters to the Editor January 15

Parliamentary inquiry into bushfires

There have been a lot of conversations about the bushfires and the changing climate and I want to encourage people to express their views to our government's parliamentary inquiry. Our government's immediate focus has been supporting the Rural Fire Service and state governments to combat the bushfires and help communities recover. We have now established the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and called-up 3000 army reservists to help communities rebuild.

There is little doubt that these fires have been some of the most devastating and prolonged in Australia's history. Whether this is a result of changing environmental conditions or a failure of agencies and policies to address proper land management and clearing, the inquiry will examine it.

Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud requested the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Energy carry out the inquiry, which will examine the efficacy of past and current vegetation and land management policy, practice and legislation and their effect on the intensity and frequency of the bushfires.

My parliamentary colleague Ted O'Brien is leading the inquiry and he would like to receive submissions by email to environment.reps@aph.gov.au by February 28 After the inquiry, we will be able to develop a national strategy for Australia to prevent similar large scale bushfire events in the future and I encourage all impacted residents or those who have an opinion on this subject to make a submission.

Pat Conaghan, Federal Member for Cowper

One trick ponies 

The current Fire Emergency has been a huge learning curve for me. Not that it's made me an expert on firefighting techniques, burning off practices or other fire prevention strategies. What has become very clear to me is that there are seemingly so many people who seem to think there is only one cause of the fires and, even more bizarrely, one solution to the problem. It would be nice if all problems were as simple as 2+2=4 but a few seconds of logical thought should be enough to inform a person of near average intelligence that this is a complex problem. As such it will probably involve many strategies in the solution, not just their favourite hobby horse.

One of the most common 'theories that solve everything' is the notion that all these fires would not have occurred if greenies, or even the Greens Party itself despite having very little political clout, had not stopped the burning off of the bush. Pics of a few hapless, isolated protesters with placards are touted as proof of this theory. On the other side of the equation are those who say it's all due to our inaction on climate change.

When the ash settles on this, we need a conversation on what we can do better in the future. There will be many things suggested, most of them of substance and merit. There will not be one quick fix remedy that ensures we never have major fires again. More burning off in winter, buffer zones around towns and houses, more appropriate tree species within townships, more resources for the RFS and many more should all be discussed, ranked and funds and resources allocated accordingly.

Then there's the elephant in the room, the aforementioned climate change. Global temperatures are rising, droughts and heat wave events are increasing in severity and frequency (these are measurable facts, not theories) and our government is too frightened to take action because of the electoral backlash from people with no inclination to do anything except blame the nearest greenie. If our leaders won't lead on this, we need new leaders. We need a better level of debate on this if we are to come up with sensible solutions. That debate will not be enhanced by people riding one trick ponies.

Geoff Richardson, Bellingen

Urunga Fire Station cuts

"FRNSW has employed a risk-based approach for resourcing the staffing levels at Urunga Fire Station" (Courier-Sun, Jan 8). What does this mean? At any time crewing could be slashed. Remember FRNSW are the ones that attend building fires. Amongst other things, two firefighters at a house fire would mean they couldn't go inside to save people until another truck arrives from 5-15 min away. Is this good enough for the people of Urunga and surrounds?. Cuts to fire services cost lives.

Name withheld on request

A continent on fire

Many people are filled with despair at the behaviour of our so-called current 'leaders' who have ignored the experts, gone on holiday and refused to consider the impact of climate change while bush and forest fires rage across virtually the whole Australian continent.

However, these unprecedented fires are not a tragedy since a tragedy is inevitable. Rather, they are the outcome of thirty years of wilful negligence and greed.

Australia's ancient Gondwana rainforests are now reduced to a shell of their former selves and untold damage done to the wildlife.

Yet what we are witnessing now is, to a large extent, the result of wilful negligence, wilful blindness and sheer greed. A total failure of leadership by political leaders from both major parties that goes back three decades when Australians were first warned of the dangers in what was then called 'the Greenhouse Effect'.

From the late 1980s onwards the mass media told us about 'global warming'. Sensible policies encouraged community education and energy efficiency. There were detailed investigations into encouraging renewable energy research and development and a carbon tax on fossil fuels was suggested. Fossil-fuel interests (coal mining companies, large manufacturers, etc.) responded with a burst of intensive lobbying and used 'independent' economic modelling that claimed the Australian economy would be ruined if such proposals were adopted

Since then, Australia's diplomatic approach changed to an anti-action position. Australia's government has adamantly sided with Saudi Arabia and the United Stated to sabotage ambitious collaboration on greenhouse reductions at every United Nations conference. The reason is clear: Australia became the world's biggest coal exporter in 1984 and has remained in that position. Powerful mining interests obviously don't want that to change.

Scientists say the lack of moisture in the landscape is a key reason the recent bushfires have been so severe and the climate crisis is behind the lengthening of the fire season. The area burned across Australia this fire season goes beyond five million hectares, an area larger than many countries.

David Bowman, director of the Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania, says the most striking thing about this fire season is the continent-scale nature of the threat. Thus, the mega-blaze on the NSW Central Coast is bigger than any in California and Mediterranean Europe.

According to NASA data, 2016 was the warmest year since 18880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The 10 warmest years in 139-year record all have occurred since 2005, with the five warmest years being the five most recent years.

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 per cent or more of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century have been caused by human activities. Furthermore, most of the leading scientific organisations have issued public statements endorsing this view.

Do we have the courage to replace the present corrupt political leaders? Not to act would be a betrayal of our custodianship.

Adrian P. Wolfin, Bellingen

Water Cloud

Putting the Water Cloud sculpture anywhere into the town centre is like putting hipster fashion onto a grand old lady resulting in a humongous, hideous clash of styles! The sculpture would also have a detrimental effect on my health as it would raise my blood pressure every time I have to look at it when I walk for exercise.

I have been visiting Dorrigo since 1983 and finally retired here. I remember Dorrigo before and after it had won the Tidy Town Award and must say that the town centre had looked very attractive to tourists maintaining its heritage style. Some shopfronts in Hickory St. look a bit tired and neglected and could do with a lick of paint and restoration but PUUHLEESE no grey tones which remind me of inner Brisbane "renovations" with their depressing minimalist approach!

The Pacific Legal building and especially the Heritage Hotel look beautiful now. How about something is done about the eyesore opposite the Heritage Hotel on the corner? The building itself could look absolutely marvellous. It is not an antique shop as it is closed 99 per cent of the time despite many tourists peering inside with gaping mouths drooling. Inside it looks very cluttered and messy despite containing a large number of real treasures.

And I am often asked by visitors from all around the world what is happening with the Railway Museum: now THAT could be a real tourist magnet.

Irene M.Tanneberger, Dorrigo

Hospital praise

A few days ago I had cause to present myself to the Emergency Department of the Bellingen Hospital. Although a false alarm I was so very impressed by the efficient way the medical staff went about their work checking me out. Very professional but with the compassionate touch as well.I walked out so appreciative that the hospital is still there to look after us both for emergencies, minor operations and caring for us when the time comes to depart this mortal earth.And it all comes back to the marvellous work Barbara Moore and her team put in to "Save the Bello Hospital" all those years ago. We would have lost it for good if Barbara and her group hadn't woken the town from its indifference and coaxed the towns folk to get behind her. It is now an important and even essential part of the NSW health systemThank you Barbara and your team, we will always be in your debt.

Gary Conlan, Bellingen