Federal funding of bushfire research dries up
ACT Police and Emergency Services Minister Simon Corbell says that it is important to continue bushfire research. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
The research centre set up to investigate bushfires after the Canberra firestorm is to lose federal funding.
The ACT government is frustrated at the move to cut off money for the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, when bushfires are not completely understood and continue to take lives and damage property.
The centre's chief executive, Gary Morgan, warned that fires would get worse as the climate changed.
Investigators from the Melbourne-based Bushfire CRC are being dispatched this week to study recent fires near Yass and Goulburn.
The centre is funded on a project-by-project basis by the Commonwealth, with funding also from state and territory governments, as well as universities and other partners.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell criticised the federal government's decision to stop funding the centre.
''This reckless cut makes no sense given the extent of the bushfire damage this summer here in NSW and right around the country,'' he said on Sunday. ''There can be absolutely no doubt advances in bushfire-fighting technology saved homes and lives during the recent bushfire crises.''
He said the centre's work had included raising understanding of extreme fire behaviour, better protecting firefighters and improving prescribed burning strategies.
The centre was set up after major Canberra and Sydney fires 10 years ago and assisted Victoria's royal commission after Black Saturday.
The federal government has made it clear that funding for all CRCs would not be open-ended.
With the Bushfire CRC to lose funding in June, a ministerial council decided in November to apply for a disaster resilience CRC, which could continue some bushfire research.
ACT Police and Emergency Services Minister Simon Corbell said it was important that bushfire research continued.
''If that was continuing with the Bushfire CRC or a new CRC, that would be a good outcome,'' he said.
Mr Morgan said full details were not available on the bid for a disaster resilience CRC, which, if successful, would start work in mid-2014.
''That leaves a full 12 months from the end of our CRC federal funding until new funding comes in, which by no means is ever guaranteed,'' he said in his latest blog entry.
''The Bushfire CRC is planning for a bigger and bolder future with a broader funding base that would keep the momentum from the current research program going.
''Either way, the board is focused on what our partners have long wanted, an ongoing future for national fire research.''
The centre said it hoped to secure funding to become a research institute from midyear when its funding contract with the federal government expires.
''The final report of the 2009 Victorian bushfires royal commission called for the establishment of such a national centre for bushfire research, as did the 2010 report of a Senate inquiry into bushfires,'' the centre said in its proposal.
''The proposed institute would focus on many of the key fire and related natural hazard issues of our time, including climate change, demographic change, workplace and community health and safety, technological innovation and policy and legislation.''
The Coalition's Senator Chris Back, a former chief executive for the Bush Fires Board of Western Australia, has urged the federal government to continue the bushfire CRC funding.