The residents of a Victorian town choked in ash during a six-week coalmine fire hope lessons will not only be learnt from the blaze, but acted upon.
They say the 400-page report on the Hazelwood mine fire, due to be tabled in state parliament on Tuesday, must be accompanied by a firm commitment from both the government and the opposition to adopt the recommendations.
Victorian health and environment authorities had no precedent to draw on as they dealt with the 45-day fire and the smoke and ash it produced.
Mine operators GDF Suez and the Country Fire Authority faced power outages, water shortages and were poorly coordinated while battling the blaze sparked by bushfires spotting into the mine in February.
Public hearings of the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry heard four substantial blazes had broken out in the open-cut mine in the past decade, with reviews and recommendations following each.
During the hearings GDF Suez was accused of ignoring a report that followed a 2008 fire recommending a risk assessment of the non-operational areas of the mine, where the 45-day blaze took hold.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Peter Rozen, said the 2014 fire might not have occurred if the risk assessment had been done and proper measures put in place.
The company’s lawyer said there were no legal obligations to implement the recommendations and the 2008 fire was completely different to the 2014 fire.
When former Supreme Court Justice Bernard Teague delivered the board’s report last week, he said it was important to learn lessons from the blaze.
The government has said it will move swiftly on recommendations put forward by the board of inquiry.
GDF Suez has begun work to install more pipes and hydrants in the mine, remove vegetation from worked-out areas and rehabilitate part of the mine’s northern batters.
The company has also been working with the Country Fire Authority to improve preparedness for mine fires.
A GDF Suez spokesman said more would be done when the recommendations were handed down.