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A primary school in East Gippsland was burnt down in the current bushfire crisis. While Premier Daniel Andrews immediately committed to rebuilding the school as it was, media reported the local CFA captain didn't want it rebuilt.
Public support for rebuilding in the same disaster affected places is often high. But as fire-fighting agencies are aware, our bushfires are increasing in size, intensity and duration, and a warming climate will continue to worsen these factors. We need to start being more strategic about where we rebuild homes and facilities lost to fire, and how.
People - Homes - Businesses - Income - Tourism
As there are sadly many people without homes and many businesses that have suffered lost income from reduced tourism and other activities, urgency in such a response seems reasonable.
But there's a risk that rebuilding the same buildings in the same areas may not mitigate the current risks or any future risks under new climate scenarios—existing and new communities will be vulnerable. Planning can assist with managing future bushfire risks by helping decide where homes, buildings and infrastructure should be located.
Buildings - Location - Risks - Hazards - Bushfire
Importantly, we must not rush to rebuild the same buildings in the same location. We need to consider risks from natural hazards in these bushfire prone areas such as ember attack, radiant heat, flammable building materials and safe evacuation routes.
If homes and some community buildings, such as schools, are located in areas that are too risky and likely to be lost in future bushfires then we need to consider our options. These may include changing the land use zoning to allow only lower-risk buildings (for industrial rather than residential use), or increasing building requirements for bushfire protection.
Rebuilding - Agencies - Communities - Opportunity - Land
Before commencing rebuilding, planning agencies need to plan how communities can be made resilient and if there is opportunity to use the affected land for houses designed with the highest bushfire attack level...
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