Government kept windstorm report from Bureau of Meteorology

The Brumby Government must explain why it failed to provide a copy of the Review of the April 08 Windstorm to the Bureau of Meteorology, even though a key recommendation of the review required action by Bureau, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Robert Clark said today.

“Yesterday, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission heard evidence from the Regional Director of the Victorian Regional Office of the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), Dr Mark Williams, that the BoM did not receive a copy of the review from the government,” Mr Clark said.

Ms Richards*: When did you become aware of this report?
Dr Williams: Oh. I didn’t see the final version of the report until just a week or so ago.
Ms Richards: Do you know when it was made available to the bureau?
Dr Williams: No, I don’t think that we actually – we downloaded it from the website.

*Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission
Transcript of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, page 763

“Ministers Peter Batchelor and Bob Cameron received a final copy of the report in August last year – six months before Black Saturday.

“Minister Batchelor told the all-party Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing yesterday that the reason for delay in releasing the report was that the government was co-ordinating a whole-of-government response.

“Yet the BoM was never given a copy of the report, and instead was forced to download the report from a website when it was finally made public in April – two months after Black Saturday.

“This is despite the fact the Esplin review found several key organisations did not receive the BoM’s weather warnings during the April 2008 windstorms, and recommended that ‘The Bureau of Meteorology must ensure the detail for these critical contacts remains up to date.’

“The BoM managed to take some action to update their contact list because an emergency services officer spoke to BoM about what was likely to be recommended, but BoM still hasn’t fully co-ordinated their contact list with Victoria’s emergency service organisations.

“It is no surprise that the Brumby Government attempted to hide this report from Victorians because of its damning findings, including the fact that the government was warned the 000 network would fail during a significant emergency.

“But it is appalling that the Brumby Government kept the report from the BoM, even though the report made clear that keeping the BoM’s warning distribution list up to date was vital for emergency response communications,” Mr Clark said.

Terms of Reference for the Review of the April 08 Windstorm
The terms of reference for this Review are:
a) Review the whole of government management of the storm event of 2 April 2008 and preparations for such events, including:
· response by the emergency services including local government;
· response by government departments;
· response by the electricity distributors and retailers;
· communication between the Bureau of Meteorology, the emergency services and other relevant Government departments/agencies;
· communication across government including local government, and with the electricity distributors and retailers, and VENCorp;
· community warnings and alerts, including use of the media during the event; and
· ongoing community education and awareness.
b) Identify lessons learnt to further improve emergency planning and response, whole of government and system capability to manage such events.
c) Given that such extreme weather events are predicted to become more frequent as climate change impacts occur, the Review will also identify opportunities to build greater community resilience for such events.
d) The Review will report jointly to the Minister for Energy and Resources and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services.
Recommendation 13
The Bureau of Meteorology contact list for severe weather warning be strategically managed in consultation with Emergency Service Organisations, to identify critical contacts. The Bureau of Meteorology must ensure the detail for these critical contacts remains up to date.