The ACT Bushfire Council is established under Section 127 of the ACT Emergencies Act, 2004 . The Bushfire Council has the function of advising the Minister about matters relating to bushfires. Section 10 of the Emergencies Act requires the Commissioner to ask for, and consider the Bushfire Council’s advice before exercising a function relating to bushfires prescribed by regulation and may ask for Bushfire Council’s advice in the exercise of any other functions relating to bushfires.
Members of the Bushfire Council are appointed by the Minister for a term of not longer than four years. The Minister is required by the Emergencies Act to try to ensure that the Bushfire Council has members with skills or experience in:
- Fire sciences
- Land management
- Fighting fires in built-up areas
- Fighting fires in rural areas
- Indigenous land management
- Representation of Rural Lessees interests
- Representation of the community’s interest in the environment
- Representation of the community’s interests generally
There are 11 members of the ACT Bushfire Council:
- Mr Kevin Jeffery (Chair)
- Mr Tony Bartlett
- Ms Cathy Parsons
- Mr Tony Fearnside
- Ms Marion Leiba
- Mr Simon Katz
- Christine Goonrey
- Mr Michael Lonergan
- Mr Peter Beutel
- Ms Sarah Sharp
- Natalie Hile
On 13 September 2006, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services gave a Standing Reference to the ACT Bushfire Council, asking that the ACT Bushfire Council provide its advice to the Minister under Section 130 (1) of the Emergencies Act, 2004 by 1 November each year, on the following matters:
- The level of preparedness of ACT Government agencies, rural leaseholders and the broader ACT community for the coming bushfire season;
- Proposals for new and ongoing funding for bushfire mitigation, preparedness and response by ACT Government agencies for the coming financial year, and the Council’s advice on priority of expenditure;
- Any other matter relevant to the mitigation, preparedness or response to bushfires in the ACT.
In May 2007, following the release of the report of the Coronial Inquiry into the 2003 bushfires, the Minister asked the ACT Bushfire Council to undertake the role of monitoring and reviewing the recommendations from the Coronial and McLeod Inquiries and to report to the Minister on the implementation of the recommendations and management of risks.
Another important function performed by the ACT Bushfire Council is the review of the annual Bushfire Operations Plans, prepared by the ACT Government and other land managers, prior to endorsement by the ESA Commissioner. The Council also monitors the implementation of these plans and reports on this in its annual report to the Minister.