The coronavirus pandemic has slowed the recovery from Australia’s devastating bushfires and interrupted planning for future fire seasons, a royal commission says.
Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements chair Mark Binskin says the devastation of the bushfires and their ongoing effects have not been forgotten.
“We know many of those communities across Australia are also still grieving,” Mr Binskin said on Monday.
“The tragic loss of life, the destruction of homes, the significant loss of livestock and millions of hectares of forest has been devastating and continues to deeply affect people and their recovery.”
Mr Binskin said in many cases, the ongoing effects of the bushfire season are being further compounded by the measures necessary to address the coronavirus pandemic.
Senior counsel assisting the commission Dominique Hogan-Doran SC said the ongoing impact of the pandemic has been profound.
“As the evidence will show, the recovery from the devastating impacts of the 2019-20 bushfire season has been slowed and fragmented,” she said.
“Planning for future seasons appears to have been interrupted.”
A two-week hearing of the royal commission, sitting in Canberra but being conducted electronically, has started with a focus on the changing global climate and natural disaster risk.
The ‘Black Summer’ bushfires killed 33 people, destroyed more than 3000 homes and burnt about 12 million hectares across Australia.