News & Media

Hazelwood Mine Inquiry - Week 1

By: Peter Schmidt

Category: Community Safety, People

  5.04 PM 26 May, 2014

Location: General

Views: 2765

Public hearings for the Hazelwood Mine Inquiry have begun in Morwell.

The Board of Inquiry is led by The Honourable Bernard Teague AO - Chair of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. The other members are Professor John Catford, Executive Director for the Epworth HealthCare Group, and Ms Sonia Petering, a practicing corporate lawyer and also chair of the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria and a Director of the Transport Accident Corporation.

Broadly, the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are:
• The origin and circumstances of the fire, including how it spread into the mine
• The adequacy and effectiveness of the measures taken by the owner/operator
• The adequacy and effectiveness of current regulation
• The adequacy and effectiveness of the response of the owner/operator, emergency services and other government agencies
• Any other matter reasonably incidental to the previous matters

To date the Inquiry team for CFA, jointly led by Karen Alexander, Senior Legal Advisor to CFA and Regional Director Peter Schmidt, has been working  to lessen the impact of the Inquiry on our people and supporting them as required, working to keep the number of witnesses called to a minimum, and working in partnership with the Fire Services Commissioner team as co-ordinators of fire services input to the Inquiry.

This work has been well supported by Gippsland Regional Staff and others with expertise from within CFA.

CFA, through the Inquiry team, has been heavily involved in input to the Government submission to the Inquiry and supporting the FSC witness statement. We recognise the great support of many people at short notice to provide us with the information required to complete these complex documents.

There are currently 225 public submissions lodged and these can viewed at

The hearings for week one of the Inquiry will consider the origin, circumstances and responses to the fire and will be led by the Chair, Honourable Bernard Teague.

A number of incident controllers involved in the fire have been called to give evidence this week. Craig Lapsley, who was the Victorian Fire Services Commissioner at the time of the fire and is now the Emergency Management Commissioner, will be giving evidence on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The second week of the Inquiry will focus on the environmental effects and health issues and will be led by Professor John Catford

The third and final week will consider mitigation and preparedness and will include the regulatory framework, and this will be led by Ms Sonia Petering.

To date the CFA Inquiry team has been working on the following main tasks:
• Providing input to the Government submission
• Support and input to FSC witness statement. This included the full detail of health monitoring and OH&S issues within the mine Input to the chronology of the fire being developed by the Victorian Government Solicitors Office
• Recovery of relevant Royal Commission and Inquiry documents into past mine fires in Latrobe Valley, and recording and researching recommendation outcomes (85 in total)
• Briefings on Inquiry provided to the CFA Board, Gippsland staff and volunteers
• Interviewing of identified CFA Incident Controllers to support submissions completion
• Preparation of Witness Statements for Incident Controllers

We will continue to provide updates as the hearings continue, but again our thanks to our people for the willingness to participate in this important process.

*ABC is streaming the Inquiry live at

Peter Schmidt and Karen Alexander, Joint Directors, Hazelwood Mine Inquiry

Last Updated: 02 June 2014