Governments cannot address heat as a cause of bushfires so must focus on managing fuel loads instead, the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro, Fiona Kotvojs, has argued in a submission to the bushfire royal commission.

Kotvojs, who has a history of downplaying the human contribution to global heating, also argued that bushfire management should be the sole responsibility of state governments, despite Scott Morrison accepting during the summer bushfires the public expects the federal government to play a greater role.

Kotvojs and her husband, Alan Burdon, made the submission in April, just nine days before the resignation of former Labor MP Mike Kelly set up the Eden Monaro byelection.

Kotvojs is contesting the poll on Saturday against Labor’s candidate, Bega mayor Kristy McBain, and the Nationals’ Trevor Hicks, as the Coalition aims for a once-in-a-century win for a government in a byelection.

In the submission, Kotvojs and Burdon state that fire “is caused by three factors, fuel, oxygen, and heat”.

“In working to minimise the likelihood of bushfires occurring and increasing the likelihood of being able to manage and defeat those that do occur, there is only one of these three factors that can be addressed; fuel load,” they said.

The pair said fuel load was the “only one issue” for them and that “unless this is addressed, everything else is meaningless”.

The terms of reference of the royal commission state that the “changing global climate carries risks for the Australian environment and Australia’s ability to prevent, mitigate and respond to bushfires and other natural disasters”.

Kotvojs has previously said that “solar activity” is the primary driver of climate change, that it’s a “myth” it increases cyclones and that the risk to Pacific nations is overstated.

Earlier in June, Kotvojs told Guardian Australia she stood by those statements but accepted that “humans contribute to [the] changing climate” and “we need to have a reduction in emissions”.

The submission does not explain why – given the human-induced nature of global heating – a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would not help reduce the heat which is a key factor in the severity of bushfires.

Morrison has said there is no direct link between Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and particular fire events. The natural disasters minister, David Littleproud, said in September he did not know if climate change was man-made, before reversing his position.

Kotvojs and Burdon argued there is “a lack of public clarity as to the different roles and responsibilities of federal and state governments” in the management of natural disasters.

“This creates confusion among the public and led to a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to effectively lead and manage the emergency.”

Kotvojs and Burdon said it should be up to state and territory fire services to decide “whether a single federal body/agency is required” to handle bushfires.

But in order to minimise the possibility of a “blame game”, the pair recommended that “responsibility for preparation and response to bushfires should be with the same level of government”.

“Hitherto, even the worst fires have tended to be contained to one or two states, with the peak occurring during one or two significant days.

“In these situations, from our perspective, it makes most sense for management of bushfires to be as close to the fires as possible.”

“Therefore we believe that the preparation for and response to bushfires should remain the sole responsibility of state authorities.”

The pair said they saw “no value” in moving the responsibility for running and financing fire services to the federal government, although it could provide “emergency funding in special circumstances” to be administered at the state level.

Expanding federal power over natural disaster management is a key focus of the royal commission due to what Morrison called a “community expectation now that there be a more direct ability for the commonwealth, particularly through the Australian defence forces, to be able to take action”.

Kotvojs and Burdon also complained that many of the businesses involved in the clean up in Bega Valley and Eurobodalla “are from Sydney and do not employ people locally”, hampering local economic recovery.