Fire Up Aireys Inlet – December 2014
The Surf Coast Shire held the ‘Fire Up Aireys Inlet’ Resilient Communities Program event on December 6th 2014 in the Aireys Inlet Community Hall. Representatives of emergency services organisations provided important information about bushfire preparedness and invited community members to join in an interactive fire scenario exercise.
AIDA promoted the event by emailing the following notice to all members with email access: “The AIDA committee considers that fire preparedness for our district is one of the main issues of concern to our members and urges you to consider attending this briefing session being held by the Shire on Saturday 6 December. RSVPs are requested so that the size of room will be appropriate. This information was included with the last Groundswell in some areas, but not all of our area was included.”
AIDA committee members Angela Berry, Annette Comte and Gary Johnson attended the event and Gary reported that:
“The Fire Up Aireys Inlet event was a great success in attracting and hopefully educating residents. 77 people registered and at least that many attended. All relevant agencies were present so we had the opportunity to ask questions during the session or at the Shire-sponsored lunch.
I asked the organiser Lauren Watt whether she felt that the AIDA email (to members encouraging that they attend) had had an impact. At the time AIDA sent members the pdf about the event, 30 had registered. So although we can’t be sure, it is likely that many of the additional 47 attended because of AIDA’s reminder or notification. It was the largest turnout at any of the town meetings.
Of interest, at least 50% of the attendees indicated that they were not permanent residents. They are the ones that the Shire has had trouble engaging. Many attendees realised, probably for the first time, that their fates are totally dependent on their pre-existing plan and decisions made before and during a bushfire. There will be no knock on the door saying that they should get out, and no fire truck saving their home. And it could be as little as 2 hours from the time a fire breaks out until departure is not possible.”
Aireys Inlet and District Neighbourhood Safer Place – December 2012
The introduction to the Surf Coast Shire’s Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan (endorsed 14th December 2011) states –
‘In its Interim Report, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended that neighbourhood safer places, or ‘NSPs’, be identified and established to provide persons in bushfire affected areas with a place of last resort during a bushfire.
In response to this recommendation, the Victorian Government has introduced the Emergency Services Legislation Amendment Act 2009 (Vic) (‘ESLA Act’) which amends the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (Vic) (‘CFA Act’) and the Emergency Management Act 1986 (Vic) (‘EM Act’). The effect of these amendments will be to require the Country Fire Authority (‘CFA’) to certify NSPs against the CFA’s Fire Rating Criteria, and Victoria’s Councils to identify, designate, establish and maintain suitable places as NSPs in their municipal districts.
NSPs are not community fire refuges or emergency relief centres. NSPs are places of last resort during the passage of a bushfire, and are intended to be used by persons whose primary bushfire plans have failed. NSPs are places of relative safety only. They do not guarantee the survival of those who assemble there. Furthermore, there may be serious risks to safety encountered in travelling, and seeking access, to NSPs during bushfire events. Depending on the direction of a particular fire, it may not be a safer place to assemble than other places within the municipal district.’ (bold type is AIDA’s emphasis)
A map that forms part of the Shire’s plan defines The Aireys Inlet and District Neighbourhood Safer Place as encompassing the Bottom Shops car park and a portion of the Painkalac Creek river bank beside the Food Store on the north side of the GOR, and the Aireys Inlet Reserve (including the car park) and the open roadside area up towards the V-line bus stop on the inlet side of the GOR.
However, a version control note on the website version of the plan states that the Neighbourhood Safer Place was removed from Aireys Inlet Skate Park (aka the Aireys Inlet Reserve) in August 2012. This appears to indicate that the current Neighbourhood Safer Place includes only the designated areas on the north side of the GOR.
AIDA is currently seeking clarification on this point.
New Bushfire Planning Provisions
Meeting between Surf Coast Shire staff, the Isis Planning consultant and representatives from ANGAIR and AIDA on changes to the planning scheme resulting from bushfire legislation.
Trying to keep up with planning in Victoria is a nightmare, yet planning has significant implications for our community. Recently AIDA was informed that the Surf Coast Shire has commissioned a review of its Planning Scheme. The review by Isis Planning will examine overlay controls and policies that are inconsistent with current state bushfire planning provisions. It will ‘develop options to balance vegetation and character issues in the overlay/policy controls to better integrate with the bushfire planning provisions’.
So where has this initiative come from? Recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission were translated into Amendment VC83, which introduced new bushfire planning provisions into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all Victorian planning schemes. Therefore, our shire must modify its current scheme to align with the new state legislation.
One of the tasks of the review is to examine the replanting requirements of our scheme’s overlays and policies. This includes overlays dealing with significant landscape and neighbourhood character as well as policies directed at streetscapes and coastal development. Depending on what is recommended by the review and adopted by the shire, we can expect changes to what is an acceptable vegetation plan for new applications, what is acceptable vegetation on nature strips and what changes are needed to better protect our settlements.
AIDA was one of four local organisations invited to take part in a consultation workshop on 19 September 2012, but only AIDA and Angair attended.
Gary Johnson and Barb Fletcher
You may have noticed vegetation piled in neat rows on the roadside in parts of Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven or Moggs Creek. Inspection will show that it consists of woody weeds ready to be chipped. So what is going on here?
Surfcoast Shire is working with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria on a strategy to reduce fuel loads in strategically important areas on the bush–urban interface.
Since the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, vegetation in these important areas has grown significantly. DSE and Parks Victoria are creating modified fuel zones and strategic fuel breaks on crown land and on large parcels of private land which have been identified as Asset Protection Zones.
To help land owners in these strategically important areas, the Surfcoast Shire is running a program called ‘Weeds to Mulch’. This program ran successfully in Anglesea and reduced fire fuel loads to a medium level and heightened community awareness of vegetation loads in relationship to fire behaviour. The program involves residents and land owners removing weeds and other hazardous vegetation from their property and moving it to the roadside curb to be chipped. Shire Fire and Environment Officers visit each property and assist residents and land owners in identifying the vegetation for removal.
As the Weeds to Mulch program runs through each area, council will also be removing environmental weeds and modifying vegetation on nature strips to reduce the fuel loads on council land. This work includes carrying out the standard road safety verge clearance on all roads within the program area.
So far the program has removed 1187 cubic metres of mulched vegetation since starting in Anglesea and has involved over 481 households.
Michael Cooper, Surf Coast Shire AIDA Newsletter December 2011