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Regional Op Ed - Prepare for this summer and avoid a tragedy

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The arrival of daylight savings, warmer weather and a vaccination-led easing of the COVID-19 public health restrictions means there is a lot to look forward to this summer.

This time of year is typically when we start to think about celebrations with family and friends, holidays away from home and even enjoying local treats on a day-trip.

Those plans will become even more meaningful this summer for those who have been separated from loved ones and those who simply need the mental health break of being in a different location. A change of scenery can do wonders.

Domestic tourism is also an important part of our community and business recovery so we would love to see people visiting the city, the regions and the country.

Yet, as we all know, we cannot be complacent – this time of year also bring risks. Whether it is a risk from storms, extreme heat, fires or water, now is the time to give serious thought to your summer safety.

We need all Victorians to heed the warning to plan and prepare to avoid a tragedy this summer.

It starts with fire preparedness. With a wet winter there has been plenty of green growth already with more expected over spring so it’s incredibly important that landowners start taking steps now to prepare your property.

Early predictions developed by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, the Bureau of Meteorology and state fire services agencies show there will be an increased risk of grassfires in Victoria once vegetation dries out.

Much of the state has experienced average to above average rainfall conditions and this is likely to result in continuous grass and crop fuels through most areas west and north of the Great Dividing Range. The north-west and west of the state may see an increase in fire potential later in spring, prior to harvest.

Fortunately, the latest national Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for September to November notes bushfire risk will remain lower across fire impacted areas of East Gippsland and north east Victoria as forests recover from the previous fire seasons.

Councils across the state are acting now to issue Fire Prevention Notices and ensure bushfire and grassfire hazards are reduced.

The good news is a permit scheme has been put in place in a similar manner to 2020. It has been approved by the Victorian Government and will enable those living in metropolitan Melbourne or any other restricted regions to travel beyond their existing COVID-19 limits to undertake fire preparedness activities.

Under the scheme, property owners can apply to their relevant council to conduct works, such as cutting grass, clearing gutters, removing growth from around any dwellings and removing fuel from the property.

Regional property owners are also encouraged to make use of local contractors or neighbours to determine if preparedness work is required ahead of making travel plans to undertake the work.

And if you are going on a holiday to a regional area, or having a day trip, remember to take some precautions before you go.

Download the Vic Emergency app and while you are away, stay informed by looking at weather and beach forecasts. Also check if a Total Fire Ban has been declared.

Councils also play an important role in Victoria’s emergency management arrangements and are responsible for coordinating relief and recovery for affected communities.

The MAV supports councils to undertake their roles and responsibilities through advocacy, guidance and practical assistance. We also represent local government on state-level committees and working groups.

This month, the MAV joined with the Department of Justice and Community Safety to run a two-part online summer briefing for councils.

It aligns with the Victorian Government’s planned preparedness campaigns and emergency management arrangements for a range of hazards including fire, heat and water safety as well as the added complexity of COVID-19.

We are doing our bit because we don’t want to tragedy hit the headlines this summer. Let’s hope we can all travel safely around Victoria and enjoy this summer.

This opinion editorial was published on 16 October 2021 and appeared in the Ballarat Courier, Bendigo Advertiser, Border Mail and the Warrnambool Standard.