Economic analysis of bushfire management programs: a Western Australian perspective
Presentation at Research Forum of the 2012 Bushfire CRC and AFAC Annual Conference.
Bushfires can cause significant damage to ecosystems, life and property, and bushfire events that do not involve people and property are becoming rare. With the expansion of the wildland–urban interface in Western Australia and elsewhere, objectives of life and property protection become more difficult to achieve. The difference between bushfires and disasters such as cyclones, floods and earthquakes, is that fire managers can plan for and manage bushfire events to a greater extent than other large natural disturbances. However, fire strategies that have sought to respond to the increasing bushfire threat with greater suppression capacity do not appear to solve the problem of catastrophic bushfires. Bushfire suppression capacity and the use of technology in bushfire management have greatly increased, but the frequency of disastrous fires appears to follow an increasing trend. Improved understanding and comprehensive appraisals of bushfire costs and benefits are needed in order to devise fire mitigation and management programs that optimally allocate resources and express informed, evidence-based judgements about trade-offs between available options. The aim of this project is to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of alternative fire management programs in Western Australia in order to determine the optimal allocation of scarce resources for bushfire management and gain improved understanding of trade-offs between conflicting objectives, such as asset protection and biodiversity conservation. The objective of society is to determine the total resources used for fire management to achieve the most efficient outcome in terms of costs and damages avoided, and thus maximise social welfare. In this paper we present our initial investigations into the application of the cost plus net value change (C+NVC) model to bushfire management programs in Western Australia.