Neighbourhood Safer Places for Barwon Downs and Beech Forest

Published on 26 September 2019

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Neighbourhood Safer Places for Barwon Downs and Beech Forest

Colac Otway Shire Council has established three new Neighbourhood Safer Places, also known as a Bushfire Place of Last Resort (NSP-BPLR) at Barwon Downs and Beech Forest.

Two sites at Barwon Downs (Barwon Downs' Community Hub building at 1599 Birregurra-Forrest Road, and Barwon Downs Common) and an open space adjacent to the Beech Forest Hotel were endorsed by Council last night, after extensive work to ensure the sites met Country Fire Authority NSP-BPLR guidelines.

The new sites will be maintained by Council and added to the Shire's list of Bushfire Places of Last Resort which include Beeac Park, Birregurra Park, Cressy (front of hall), Cressy Community Hall, Gellibrand's Rex Norman Park and the Apollo Bay Foreshore.

Colac Otway Mayor Jason Schram said the endorsement of the three additional sites was important for residents and visitors to our shire, with work already underway to identify and establish further NSP-BPLRs in other lower risk townships.

“It is essential for everyone in our community to have their own bushfire plans and the safest option to protect yourself and your family is to leave home on high-risk fire days if they live in high-risk areas of the Shire.

“But Council has worked hard to establish compliant NSP-BPLRs at Beech Forest and Barwon Downs, both of which were names in the top 52 Victorian towns at highest risk from bushfire following the 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission.

“NSP-BPLRs do not guarantee the survival of people who gather there but are considered a last-resort option if their personal bushfire plans have failed.

“Council has completed significant work at the sites or to provide compliant access to the sites including tree removal or trimming.

“For example, after allocating $45,000 in the 2018-19 Budget for compliance work at Barwon Downs, Council lopped or removed 31 trees, removed an old tennis club shed, replaced fencing with a two-metre high steel fence and made necessary changes to the surrounding gardens and trees on site.

“Council budgeted for $38,000 for compliance work at Beech Forest which included a gravel pad, fence installation, building up an existing earth wall, post replacement and tree pruning.

“We consulted with the local communities at Barwon Downs and Beech Forest throughout the process of identifying, assessing and establishing these sites and we look forward to continuing to work with other communities on further NSP-BPLRs in our shire.

“Council is also ramping up its fire prevention work for the upcoming fire season and we urged the community to do the same,” Cr Schram said.

“Make sure you review your bushfire plan and start looking at the work you need to do to clean up around your property before the start of fire season.”