The State Government has quietly launched an online tool that allows Tasmanians to quickly and easily understand whether their home is at risk of bushfires and landslides, but is not publicly promoting it — despite the state being in the middle of bushfire season.
- RiskReady ‘went live’ in mid-December, but hasn’t been promoted by government agencies
- The State Government says it will promote the online tool “at an appropriate time”
- The Greens say RiskReady is helpful, but useless without promotion
The RiskReady feature, developed over 12 months at a cost of about $50,000 by the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPAC) with the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) and other agencies, was completed in mid-December.
Available now on the TasAlert webpage, RiskReady allows people to enter an address and quickly determine whether a property is likely to be exposed to a range of natural hazards, including bushfire, landslide, coastal erosion and coastal inundation.
The data was already available on the Government’s LIST (Land Information System Tasmania) website and other channels, but RiskReady distils the information into an accessible and understandable format, with the option of generating a PDF report listing all the hazards and their degree of foreseen risk.
The feature was developed as part of the Government’s climate change action plan and aims to improve community resilience to natural hazards by providing advice on how property owners can reduce the risk of property damage, with links to detailed risk mitigation and preparedness advice.
But while the tool became active in mid-December, there has been no promotion of it by the minister responsible, Peter Gutwein, or DPAC, and very little mention of it by other agencies.
Mr Gutwein was the minister for environment while RiskReady was being developed, and has recently made himself Climate Change Minister.
Public servants barred from promoting website, Greens say
Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff said it made no sense that the Government hadn’t promoted the tool.
“Every single day that goes by is a day that people could be making potentially life-saving decisions about how to manage their property,” Ms Woodruff said.
“They’ve spent money, and public servants have done very important and excellent work getting this tool up and ready. We understand that public servants have been barred from promoting it.”
Ms Woodruff said the Government appeared to be “playing politics” by holding off making an announcement.
She said RiskReady would be helpful for people to manage bushfire management, but there needed to be public information about it.
“A live website is effectively useless unless it’s accompanied by promotion,” she said.
In a statement, a spokeswoman said the Government intended to promote the tool, “at an appropriate time”.
“To avoid overshadowing other important public messaging around preparing for bushfire season and a general awareness campaign for the State Emergency Service, a decision was made to not to actively promote this tool at this time,” she said.
She rejected the claim the Government had banned public servants from speaking about RiskReady.
“The Tasmanian Government is not in the business of stopping the sharing of important information, RiskReady has been uploaded on the website for the public to access freely,” she said.
Tool could help home buyers: REIT
The Real Estate Institute of Tasmania president Mandy Welling said the institute had not been aware of RiskReady but believed it would be a valuable tool for home buyers who wanted to do their own research.
“Knowledge is a wonderful thing with regards to the purchase of a piece of real estate,” she said.
“Our only concern would be [the potential for] misconception or misunderstanding, so for example landslip areas have different gradings and different zones, and a lot of people would automatically hear ‘landslip’ and think that’s a no-go zone.
“It’s really important that people really understand what these things mean. That would be our concern as an industry, that the people who jump online might not understand the references on the website.”
Ms Welling said she would welcome promotion and public education about RiskReady.
She also said it would have been handy for real estate agents to have known about the portal when it went live.
RiskReady was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and State governments through the National Partnership Agreement on National Disaster Resilience.