Letters / Call for inquiry into Army chopper bushfire

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Smoke from the Orroral Valley Fire at Namadgi National Park. Photo: ESA

Letter writer PAUL VARSANYI, of Kambah, wants to see an independent investigation into the Army’s role in starting the devastating bushfire in Namadgi National Park earlier this year.

AT the time of the ACT’s bushfire crisis in January, an Army helicopter started a fire which wiped out 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park, destroyed several homes, nearly wiped out Tharwa and threatened thousands of homes in south Tuggeranong.

Bless the ABC for having conducted an investigation of the matter. Documents obtained by the ABC under FOI reveal a most unsettling state of affairs.

We are treated to an explanation from the Army that beggars belief. A helicopter crew that was supposed to be engaged in “aerial surveillance” decided it rather wanted to be on the ground. And not just anywhere, but in a location where the visibility was so bad they had to have their tail lights on. 

The lights lit the grass and the crew got out of there quick smart. The Army then wants us to believe that the crew were so engrossed in their self preservation that they headed straight back to base without immediately informing the ESA of the location of their fire; a fire that quickly became a catastrophic inferno and that could have been attended to promptly with early location advice.

Some 45 minutes later, Defence owned up to the blaze it had started and informed the ESA of the location. Another five hours later Defence informed its Minister and a day later the Prime Minister and Chief Minister.

So what was Defence doing from the moment the fire was lit? They were engaged in the time-honoured activity of getting their story straight, in a fashion which aimed to reduce the “reputational impact” to the Army.

This incident, and Defence’s treatment of it, demands an independent investigation. There are questions of Army culpability, reparations to owners of burnt properties and a public apology to the residents of southern ACT.

Paul Varsanyi, Kambah

Scrap the ‘theme park’ plan

THE physical arrangement of the National War Memorial, as a combined cenotaph and war museum, has never really been satisfactory.

The iconic central dominant section is a very fine cenotaph, with towering twinned portals, elevated colonnaded galleries, and reflecting pool, all culminating in the magnificent central dome. Their overall unified arrangement complies with the architectural principle of “form follows function”.

However, the two (east and west) side display components are not so successful in that regard, and public access to them is confusing, and not clearly legible. However, they do participate in the overall symmetrical architectural arrangement.

The planned profligate demolition of the fine, new Anzac Hall component, and the installation of a massive “theme-park”, at the rear of the complex, is architectural vandalism and will not improve the existing circulation problems.

That scheme should be scrapped, and its funds allocated to a new purpose-built, indoor-outdoor National War Museum, including indigenous elements, and many items currently warehoused off site. It could be built at an evocative place elsewhere in the central national area.

Anzac Hall could be for a special namesake exhibition, directly linked to the iconic main memorial/cenotaph, say, below the elevated floor of the dome; and the confusing side sections simply closed off to the public, and put to say, storage or admin uses.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Self-interest rules

JON Stanhope nails it (“Poor suffer as the land Barr bought stands idle”, CN, December 3). The poor do suffer, but that is of no concern to the majority of Canberrans who elect Labor and the Greens. 

Most electors in Canberra – already with the highest average incomes in Australia – are primarily interested in enhancing their own income and wealth, so they vote for the Labor/Greens coalition, which is more likely to enhance taxpayer-funded wages and the value of Canberrans’ properties.

Policies that increase the role of the public sector – both in terms of expenditure and control – and drive up property prices by withholding supply are much more likely to get majority support than proposals to assist low-income households and provide them with more choice. Self-interest rules. That is why Labor/Greens will always win the votes of the comfortable middle class in Canberra and the philosophy of the Liberal Party will always be rejected.

Ian Wearing, Yass

Grasses and weeds galore

THE median strip along the tramway is an unmitigated disaster with a collection of so-called native grasses and weeds galore, thistles over two metres tall and gum trees growing at all angles with some still dying. 

All this causes visual problems for traffic at some intersections. 

Whoa, hold on Cedric, this is part of the plan by our government to make visitors feel they have now arrived at the “bush” capital! 

Although the worry is noted in last week’s “CityNews” story “Fast grass fires a big threat” says ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Rohan Scott. Don’t worry, a discarded cigarette butt from a car on a windy day should fix the problem!

Cedric Bryant, Watson

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