Thursday 4 October 2007


[11.04 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I am continually amazed and deeply gratified when I see how our Tasmanian communities can work together in the face of an emergency. We see it almost every summer fire season and we saw it at the underground tragedy at Beaconsfield, but an exceptional example of community cooperation took place in my electorate only last month when a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler, Kye Creely, became lost in rugged terrain at Notley Gorge west of Exeter. As my guests in the Chamber today would realise, being parents and a grandparent of three youngsters, you need eyes in the back of your head to keep track of kids at all times.

Mr Wilkinson - And adults.

Ms Thorp - And their grandfather.

Mr FINCH - Nothing personal, I am sure.
Kye wandered off late one afternoon, it was actually Tuesday 18 September, from a shack in Mitchelsons Road where he was staying with his family. Grave concerns were held for his safety, Mr President, because there are a lot of rock faces and thick scrub surrounding the area and three dams very close by. As you know, little kids and water sometimes do not mix.

A large search was quickly mounted, including the SES police, Tasmania Fire Service personnel and, most importantly, Mr President, volunteers and local residents. In fact it was a local farmer who found young Kye with his four-month-old dog in darkness near a sheer cliff face about six hours after he disappeared and the farmer had luckily been driving along the edges of his paddocks, but he was also part of a well coordinated search. In all, about 100 people were involved in the search and about 50 of them volunteers from the Beaconsfield area who were quickly recruited by a relative of the lost boy.

Police, and they always respond magnificently, set up a command post in the expectation that the operation would go on all through the night. Fire crews used heat-sensing equipment in the search. About 25 extra search and rescue personnel were on their way from Hobart and a helicopter was standing by to join the search at first light. Mr President, the good news was that young Kye was found about 11 o'clock when that farmer searching his paddocks just happened to hear the faintest of sounds nearby. Kye had lost his gumboots but not his dog, he had a few scratches but was otherwise fine.

What this potential tragedy, which had a happy ending, demonstrates, Mr President, is that the coordination and management of rescue and search operations has not only been maintained in Tasmania at a high level but has greatly progressed in the State in the past few decades. This is partly to do with experience, but also more efficient communications. The success of such operations still depends upon community involvement, as did this one, and in all such emergencies an efficient SES unit is vital, Mr President.

In this case, an SES unit was sent from Youngtown in Launceston but a local West Tamar SES unit is likely to be involved in future emergencies in the district. A West Tamar SES was created in February last year and it is well under way to becoming operational. The West Tamar is the last region in the State to have a local SES unit. The unit trains every fortnight in skills, including road accident rescue, general rescue, storm damage operations and search and rescue in support of the community during emergencies. The unit has not headquarters yet but it is expected to move into a new facility in Biloo Street, Exeter, where it will have garaging for two vehicles. A vehicle equipped for road accident rescue work is on the way.

I would like to point out too that last year rural SES volunteers responded to 345 road crash call-outs and ours will be working closely with the Tasmania Fire Service as their new urban road crash rescue capability is developed. Its other important role in coping with storm damage might also soon expand if our predictions of more severe weather events prove correct. Did you feel the wind this morning in Davey Street? I chased my hat for 100 metres, but it was good exercise.

It is worth noting, Mr President, in conclusion, that the State Emergency Service, and as we know it was only properly formed under the Emergency Services Act 1976, is currently under review. It is to be hoped, Mr President, that any changes to the 1976 act will further improve one of Tasmania's community success stories and hopefully ensure that all Tasmanian SES units never lack funding or government support. I am looking forward to responding to an invitation from a local SES unit to go and have a look at their training and their new headquarters when they are opened.