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Response to Weekly Times article
I am writing in response to a recent front page Weekly Times article titled ‘Map Trap’.
The article claimed that the Victorian Government, through the CFA, had failed to meet one of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission Interim Recommendations, by not including the location of Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) in the recently released Edition 3 Central mapbook.
This is not the case.
In its response to the Interim Report of the Royal Commission, the Government stated that the Country Fire Authority would provide an up-to-date list of NSPs for inclusion in the State’s digital mapping base, VicMap.
CFA has met that commitment.
VicMap is the official Victorian Government mapping database. All agencies have access to this and it contains up-to-date NSP locations.
The hard copy mapbooks are not part of Vicmap - they are produced by a third party, Spatial vision, and use Vicmap as a data source. Inclusion of NSPs in the hard copy mapbooks was not part of the Royal Commission's recommendation nor the Government's response, as was incorrectly stated in the article.
NSPs were not included in the most recent Central Victorian map book as the concept of NSPs is so new that this dataset is constantly changing and increasing. Based on the data cut-off date for the mapbook, there would have been 34 NSPs shown in the Central mapbook but, as at the release date of the book, there have already been another 27 NSPs designated in the area covered by the mapbook and one of the original NSPs was decommissioned.
This rate of change is only expected to increase given the final report of the Royal Commission. Given that this mapbook will be in use by CFA for the next 2.5 years, if NSPs had been included the mapbook would only show a fraction of the existing NSPs, and some of the NSPs shown would not have existed on the ground.
The ‘Map Trap’ article also gives the impression CFA members will not have key information on NSPs. This, again, is not the case.
CFA’s website tracks all NSP’s, how many there are and where they are located – this is the key public reference point. CFA’s website is regularly updated as NSPs are designated and currently shows 120 NSPs.
CFA brigades in the State’s 52 high-risk areas also know the location of their local NSPs because they are involved in the development of Township Protection Plans (TTPs) in these areas. Any change to NSPs in these Township Protection Plans includes the distribution of maps to the relevant brigades, and wider agencies.
The current locations of NSPs are included in the mapping software used at Incident Control Centres and Divisional Command Centres. Also, in accordance with CFA protocols, strike teams are briefed and provided with both Township Protection Plans and maps that show updated locations of NSPs, before they enter the fire ground, or are deployed to protect an NSP.
Mick Bourke – Country Fire Authority, CEO