Premier Gladys Berejiklian shocked by drought conditions in Glen Innes visit

When premier Gladys Berejiklian visited yesterday Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks, using a high-tech touch screen RFS, made the fire crisis very personal.

"I pointed out to her where I live on a community, isolated community at Wytaliba," said Councilor Sparks.

"I told her that's where I was, right in the middle of the bush - in a very vulnerable situation."

In an interview with the Examiner today she said all residents of the Glen Innes Severn shire should be on guard, saying Wytaliba was prepared for a tough fire season.

"The rural fire brigade has been fantastic; our own rural fire brigade has protected us from fires early on in the season. We are relatively protected from the oncoming fire and the fire season because of those fires."


She later told journalists she was shocked to see the intensity of the drought.

"What shocked me perhaps the most flying over to get here is - I was here a few years ago - and the dry conditions are really, really severe. I can't emphasise that enough.

"The locals already know it because they live and feel it every day.

"But to see from the air how dry the conditions are really explains how why so many of the fires are traveling so fast, why they're uncontolled; this is really a condition on a condition."

Premier Berejiklian later flew to Tenterfield and then Tyringham where she committed to spend $20,000 to improve the hot water system and the kitchen of their RFS facility.

In Tenterfield Emergency Services Minister David Elliot took the opportunity to announce a $40,000 grant to BlazeAid to assist in helping the community recover.

The Glen Innes mayor also asked for assistance, seeking regulatory help with our own water situation. The town plans to sink its own bore on September 23, and Councilor Sparks asked the Premier to make licence approval a priority "given the circumstances".


The Glen Innes Severn Council is also considering doing their bit to fight fire at a regional level.

Director of Infrastructure Keith Appleby recently told the Examiner the Glen Innes Severn Council has been liaising with the RFS to set up the sewer treatment plant to treat effluent water to a standard that can be used for firefighting.

"We'll let Glen Innes airport get set up as a fighting base for aircraft and we'll try to make use of that resource," he said.

"We're certainly looking at it from a regional perspective and trying to get a firefighting resource where we can be a base for the larger air tankers."

Mayor Sparks said the council is also being "proactive" by making equipment available for what are called dry fire fighting techniques - think bulldozers pushing over trees to make containment lines.

Individuals can pitch in as well, she said.

"Have your fire plan - be ready even in the town, because we're vulnerable. The higher the temperatures go the more vulnerable we are."

The Mayor said we need to use terms like "climate emergency" to explain the unprecedented severity of the Spring fires.

When Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked if she thought it would be appropriate for the Federal government to declare a climate emergency, she batted away the question.

"I'll let the Federal colleagues debate that, we're here focused on the situation at hand in NSW and as the premier of this state we're always looking for opportunities to strengthen what we can do to prevent these horrific disasters for taking shape.

"But there's no doubt that the exacerbated drought conditions and weather conditions are what's really exacerbating the uncontained fires at the moment."