|Investigations into Neighbourhood Safer Places continue |
Investigations have found that Barwon Downs, Carlisle River and Forrest might get Neighbourhood Safer Places, subject to funding availability and community agreement on the amount of vegetation removal required.
Colac Otway Shire Council is also seeking advice from the Fire Services Commissioner about whether funding might be available for NSPs at Kawarren and Barongarook.
Council’s May meeting heard that the Victorian Government had pledged $94,701 to establish an NSP in Barwon Downs, $718,000 for Carlisle River and $600,534 for Forrest.
Mayor Brian Crook said Council was working hard to establish NSPs in high risk towns, but had to follow a set process as outlined by the Municipal Association of Victoria to access funding.
“We recognise that the process moves slowly, but the last thing we would want to do is to establish an NSP in the wrong place and put people’s lives at further risk, “ Cr Crook said.
While the Victorian Government also offered $602,115 for an NSP at the Wye River Surf Lifesaving Club, investigations found the building did not generally meet the criteria in the Municipal NSP Plan.
Issues associated with an NSP being located at the Wye River Surf Lifesaving Club include a requirement for it to be open 24 hours per day during the declared fire danger period.
Other issues include the amount of surrounding vegetation, and the erosion and landslip issues that might be caused by vegetation removal.
Additionally, Cr Crook said the building was simply too small.
“The population in Wye River swells to nearly 5000 people during the declared fire danger period and estimates suggest the building would struggle to hold 200 people without being overcrowded,” Cr Crook said.
“We will seek advice from the Victorian Government about whether an evacuation plan will be developed for Wye River given that a Neighbourhood Safer Place cannot be established in the town, as was the case for Lavers Hill and Marengo.”
Council approved the development of implementation plans for NSP sites in Forrest, Barwon Downs and Wye River at its May meeting.
Cr Crook said that if these plans received approval from the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Fire Services Commissioner, a further report would go to Council for consideration.
“Council will to give the community an opportunity to comment on these proposals, because there may be a lot of vegetation removal required, which will impact on the character of these towns,” he said.
Council’s Sustainable Planning and Development General Manager Jack Green said that even if NSP sites were set up in the municipality, they could never guarantee peoples’ safety.
“Neighbourhood Safer Places were no substitute for a comprehensive fire plan and should not influence people’s decision on whether to stay or go on a code red day.
“Our advice on code red days has always been to leave early and relocate to a safer regional centre.
“Neighbourhood Safer Places are not safe, and should only be used as a place of last resort to go to if your original fire plan has failed or if you are caught in a fire unexpectedly.”
May 26, 2011