Council champions fire compo bid

Holly ThompsonSouth Western Times
Forest Products Commission was found not negligent in relation to either the cause or the spread of the fire last February.
Camera IconForest Products Commission was found not negligent in relation to either the cause or the spread of the fire last February. Credit: Graphic / South Western Times

Landowners affected by the Lewana fire are a step closer to State Government compensation after policy changes were unanimously supported last week.

Donnybrook-Balingup Shire Council has agreed the policy should change to ensure landowners are adequately compensated when State Government activities result in damage to property.

The call for change came about after RiskCover found the Forest Products Commission was not negligent in relation to either the cause or the spread of the fire last February.

The council’s agenda stated that in the absence of RiskCover accepting liability for damage caused by the incident, the council should appeal to the State Government to consider compensation for landowners affected by the actions of the Forest Products Commission.

Shire president Brian Piesse and chief executive officer Benjamin Rose tabled the proposed changes at a meeting of the South West Western Australian Local Government Association on Friday and received unanimous support.

The WA Local Government Association will now be asked to advocate for changes to the system with State Government agencies, members of parliament and other stakeholders.

Mr Rose said an incident recovery update meeting held at the Balingup Bushfire Brigade in July had started further discussion of change. “The purpose of the meeting was to review the status of recovery arrangements in relation to the Lewana fire from earlier this year,” he said.

“It was to identify further collaborative actions and efforts that could be taken to advocate for better outcomes for the affected landowners.”

Mr Rose said he acknowledged the region had been impacted by serious fires about three times in the past decade.

“Landowners, quite understandably, are frustrated with the situation,” he said.

“Each fire has caused significant damage to landowners’ homes, properties, businesses and lifestyle, and amenity, the compounding effect of which should not be underestimated.”

Mr Rose said because of this impact, now was a good time to take action and prevent such devastation in the future, particularly devastation caused through State Government work.

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