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Victoria spends $517 million to address bushfire threat

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The Victorian state government has allocated a record $517 million funding package aimed at reducing bushfire risk for what it says are “longer, hotter fire seasons to come”.

The investment, unveiled as part of the Victorian Budget 2021/22, will deliver technology upgrades for firefighters and improve risk management across agencies “to reduce the risk of bushfires in a changing climate,” the government says.

Minister for Energy Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio says investing in equipment, technology and infrastructure to reduce the risk of the next bushfire season will help first responders and local communities, who “band together to do an incredible job protecting Victorians throughout bushfire season”.

“We can’t ever thank them enough,” she said.

Under the package, $339.5 million will fund Forest Fire Management workers and firefighters to modernise technology, fire towers and equipment. A further $133 million will fund new digital radios for Forest Fire Management Victoria staff, helping them avoid black spots and communicate better with other emergency services.

“Better communication on the ground and in remote areas will help detect fires earlier and improve efforts to contain them faster,” the government says.

More than $21 million will be provided for a new Office of Bushfire Risk Management. This will bring together land and fire managers and work with Forest Fire Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, Emergency Management Victoria, local government, landholders, road authorities and the community.

The investment follows recommendations of two inquiries into the devastating 2019 and 2020 bushfires by the Inspector General for Emergency Management and the bushfires royal commission

“It will have a key role in delivering the improvements to land and fire management recommended by the Inspector-General,” the government says.

A further $15.6 million will address long grasses and other flammable undergrowth across Victoria via fuel management along major arterial road and rail corridors, planned burns, new specialist skills and machinery and advanced bushfire risk modelling.