Queensland’s aerial response to bushfires will be boosted with funding secured for a long-term Large Air Tanker (LAT) capability for the state.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced funding of more than $15 million and $3.1 million in ongoing costs to bolster capabilities with a Queensland-based LAT.
“Last year I wrote to the Prime Minister requesting support to secure a Large Air Tanker for Queensland, but Scott Morrison refused,” the Premier said.
“I said we would go it alone, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
“The acquisition of this giant, 15,000-litre aircraft will enhance our ability to fight bushfires over the next five years in Queensland.
“We saw how valuable waterbombing efforts were at Peregian, Sarabah, Stanthorpe and Pechey last year.
“That is why I asked the Minister to look at Queensland securing its own large aerial tanker capability to ensure our communities are protected – from the next bushfire season and well into the future.
“Queensland also remains committed to working with other states and territories, and with the Federal Government, to improve the nation’s bushfire response capabilities overall.”
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Craig Crawford said the LAT was first utilised in Queensland during the 2018 bushfire season, through an arrangement with New South Wales.
“Queensland previously had the option to source call-when-needed LATs from interstate based on point-in-time requirements and availability,” he said.
“But with New South Wales enduring its own bushfire emergency, it became increasingly difficult to secure the LAT last year.
“There were some instances where it was bound for Queensland only to be recalled to New South Wales.
“This funding allows us to provide a standing LAT capability which will strengthen Queensland’s bushfire response.”
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Greg Leach said the Queensland-based LAT would be utilised through an arrangement with the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC).
“QFES already has a long-term and successful working relationship with NAFC through our use of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft,” Mr Leach said.
“With Queensland, as well as other states and territories, experiencing these longer and more intense bushfire seasons there is a strong potential for the 2020 bushfire season to be just as severe.
“QFES typically uses LATs for building extensive suppressant breaks in support of firefighting ground crew efforts and its water-bombing capability is part of the overall toolkit now used by QFES to prepare and respond to bushfire events.”
Mr Leach said QFES used 72 aircraft during last year’s bushfire season, which equated to more than 6557 hours flown.
“This was more than double the hours flown during the 2018 bushfire season, which shows how essential our aerial capabilities are during bushfire season,” Mr Leach said.
“While we have only just seen the end of the 2019 bushfire season on 31 January, QFES is already looking to this year’s season and the addition of the LAT will play an important role in our preparation and response.”
Premier and Minister for Trade
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
The Honourable Craig Crawford