Tag: Hazard Reduction

The Fire Fight over Potato Point

The second in a series of adverts has been published in The Land newspaper (page 32) on Thursday 11th December 2014.

VFFA Potato Point Advert 2

The text reads as follows:

The Fire Fight over Potato Point

Imagine for a minute you’re a resident of Potato Point. You remember only too well the 1985 bushfire that sparked spot fires amongst houses and almost took out the village.

It was stopped (just), thanks to some very brave fire fighters and a 600 metre firebreak.

That firebreak has now gone.

It’s been replaced by bushland the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Now imagine a village much larger than it was in 1985. Feel the frustration as a local, who for 13 years has been asking for the restoration of a smaller (200 metre) firebreak, as well as some other preventative measures recommended by one of the world’s most eminent authorities on bushfire behaviour.

Imagine your annoyance when all that is seemingly received from the NPWS, after a very protracted “consultative process”, was some token ground cover and canopy reduction.

Well, we’ve fought enough fires to know that they are never stopped by talk … and tokenism.

So the locals asked their State Member, Andrew Constance, and the NSW Minister for the Environment, Robert Stokes to familiarise themselves with the facts and help break the nexus.

They did. A meeting was held on the 7th August at Parliament House with all parties, including a representative from NPWS.

Imagine our relief when a ten-point plan was agreed by everyone.

Now imagine our anger when the NPWS has seemingly decided to implement just 3 of those ten points and ignore the rest.

It’s time for our politicians to step-up and remind the NPWS that they are there to implement ministerial decisions.

Because, no one wants to imagine the consequences of a catastrophic bushfire anywhere near Potato Point this summer.

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Parks won’t give an inch

The VFFA is campaigning to help the Potato Point Community restore the fire break they need.

The first of a new series of adverts has been published in The Land newspaper on Thursday 4th December 2014.

VFFA Potato Point Advert

The text reads as follows:

In 1985 we had 600m, but National Parks won’t give an inch today!

On the 2nd March 1985, a major bushfire backed by a strong westerly wind raced towards the Potato Point village.

As the fire approached to less than a kilometre from the village precinct the noise became deafening, vision went down to just a few metres and residents scrambled to seek shelter for their families. Many experienced breathing difficulties whilst others fled to the beach.

Fortuitously, once the fire reached the edge of a 600 metre grassland firebreak the numerous fire fighters marshalled to the location were able to avert a potential catastrophe.

Even then, the associated ember attack started several spot fires in and around houses.

It was a close thing and certainly not something easily forgotten … unless, of course, you are from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Today, that 600-800 metre firebreak doesn’t exist.

In fact, NPWS-controlled bushland edges right up to roadways, and the much larger Potato Point community is more vulnerable than ever before and this is despite years of consultation with NPWS.

In the words of Phil Cheney, one of the world’s most eminent authorities on the behaviour of bushfires, the “residents of Potato Point are vulnerable to high-intensity bushfire”.


“Implement what the local State Member, Andrew Constance, and the NSW Minister for the Environment, Robert Stokes, have already promised the local community and give Potato Point the fire break it needs.”

A Summary of the Potato Point Situation:

  1. The isolated community of Potato Point has been struggling for 13 years to have effective bushfire protection restored. This long campaign has been necessary because the NPWS has permitted forest to grow on the 500 metre grassland reserve that had been in place since before European settlement. (see the Before and Now images below)
  2. In February 2009 all but one of the almost one hundred land owners at Potato Point signed a petition urging the NSW Government to urgently restore the firebreak and remove the forest that had been permitted to grow up to the back fences of some properties.
  3. On 6 April 2013 the Potato Point Rural Fire Brigade delivered a detailed submission to the then responsible minister, Robyn Parker, urging early restoration of effective bushfire protection to their community.
  4. A time-consuming and expensive process was subsequently launched by the NPWS to assess some of the factors relevant to restoring effective bushfire protection to Potato Point. From the outset, the NPWS made clear that it favoured a minimalist approach. However, the overwhelming majority of the Potato Point community rejected the NPWS approach as inadequate.
  5. In desperation, some members of the Potato Point Community sought out Australia’s leading bushfire risk expert, Philip Cheney, (who led bushfire research at the CSIRO for 26 years) and commissioned him to undertake a completely independent assessment of the minimum measures required to restore effective bushfire protection to Potato Point. Mr Cheney’s recommendations were rigorous and clear.
  6. Mr Cheney’s report has not been properly acknowledged by the RFS or the NPWS.

Potato Point Aerial Photos

There is no disputing that the grassed area that can be seen in the “Before” image (above) has diminished extensively.

Click on the image for a slightly larger view

The shaded area on the “Now” image (above) are identified RFS bushfire risk management zones.

The RFS has published some Draft Community Protection Plans at the following location:


Note: You can complete the RFS feedback survey from the link (above)


Blue – Strategic Fire Advantage Zone (SFAZ)

Purpose (From the RFS) – To provide strategic areas of fire protection advantage which will reduce the speed and intensity of bush fires, and reduce the potential for spot fire development. To aid containment of wildfires to existing management boundaries.


Yellow – Asset Protection Zone (APZ)

Purpose (From the RFS) – To protect human life, property and highly valued public assets and values.

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The battle to make Potato Point safe from bushfires

Sydney Morning Herald

By Tim Barlass, November 30, 2014.

Potato Point

It is a remote clifftop enclave boasting seclusion and enviable views.

There is only one blot on the landscape for the 150 or so residents of Potato Point, in Eurobodalla Shire on the south coast – it has become surrounded on three sides by dense bush and, in the event of a bushfire, there is only one road out.

In 1995, part of the area was declared a national park and since then there has been little work to preserve firebreaks, say residents, who have been calling on the National Parks and Wildlife Service to do something since 2003.

A bushfire in 1985 almost reached the village but a 600-metre grass firebreak saved the day, as many scrambled to the beach. The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association says the firebreak no longer exists.

In an advertisement to be published in The Land this week, the association calls on the service to implement what local state member Andrew Constance (NSW Treasurer) and the NSW Minister for the Environment Robert Stokes have already promised the local community and give Potato Point the fire break it needs.

In May, National Parks presented three studies into environmental factors, impact on flora and fauna and an assessment of bushfire risk.

The only animal found to be endangered was the striated fieldwren – and that was the tussocky grassland it favours had been overrun by the trees the NPWS hadn’t thinned.

Residents called in bushfire expert Phil Cheney, whose report said residents of Potato Point were vulnerable to high-intensity bushfire.

He recommended significant fuel reduction, establishment of a substantial firebreak and identification of a safe place for evacuation of the elderly and infirm.

Community representatives met Mr Stokes in August and say a 10-point action plan was agreed by the minister.

Caged in

Caged in (image above): Lindy Hudson with her children Emily and Tom, and deputy mayor of Eurobodalla Shire Council Rob Pollock.

Deputy mayor of Eurobodalla Rob Pollock said three months on only a watered-down program the National Parks and Wildlife Service had decided on before the meeting with the minister was being implemented.

Mr Pollock told The Sun-Herald: “I think the NPWS is more interested in preserving their bush, which didn’t exist until it was declared a national park. We used to burn it every year and it would be perfectly green grassland again after four weeks.

“If we have another fire I don’t think there’s any doubt there would be loss of houses and I would hope to God that we don’t have personal injury or loss of life.”

But a spokesman for Mr Stokes said a number of outcomes were agreed at a meeting with the community and were being implemented by NPWS and the RFS.

“Not only are the report’s findings being responded to in full, but further fire risk mitigation measures are being carried out following community consultation,” he said.

Tim Shepherd, of the NPWS, said Potato Point was one of the better-protected coastal villages with a bush interface in NSW.

Extensive work carried out provided an effective firebreak, he said.

“We also note that there are divergent views in the community and the comment that the community says there is still not an effective firebreak in place is only one viewpoint,” he said.

Click HERE to view this story on the Sydney Morning Herald web site.

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Climate Change or Poor Land Management

Before you make up your mind on the climate change debate and the connection between the climate and bushfires, have a listen to this interview.

Alan Jones speaks with the former head of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore about climate change and carbon dioxide.

After your hear this interview, ask yourself if we are managing our environment appropriately.

You may like to consider how early Aboriginals managed their environment.

The ABC produced the following video about the research of Bill Gammage.

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Stop Australian Bushfires

Have a look at the web site titled “Stop Australian Bushfires”.

Christine Finlay has a PhD in bushfire management.

Read Christine’s plan that would save over 90% of the costs of running our OUT OF CONTROL bushfire services. (see the link on her web site)

Pre-1788, naked Indigenous Australians managed the bush with no boots or even a box of matches.

They taught early settlers these skills and old timers still remember a fuel-reduced firestorm-free past that cost the whiff of an oily rag.


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New Laws to Protect Property from Bush Fires – Update

We have been hearing about these new laws since the Media Release by Michael Gallacher on 13 November 2013.

Mr Gallacher said:

“We are also developing new rules which when commenced will allow homeowners in designated bush fire prone areas to clear trees near their homes to protect their property from bush fires, in an environmentally responsible way, without the requirement of an assessment or approval”

The Media Release stated that:

It would mean residents in designated bush fire prone areas will not need to seek permission to sensibly clear vegetation that is posing a fire risk from around their property. When the new rules are implemented, home owners adjacent to and those in close proximity to bushland will not need to get permission to clear trees within 10 metres of their homes, on their own land. They will be able to clear undergrowth and shrubs within 50 metres of their homes, on their own land.

Time for an Update

The RFS has just published an update in an eBulletin (Issue 23 – June 2014)

It provides the following information:

Residents will be given additional powers to protect their homes from bush fires, with new laws introduced into NSW Parliament to make it easier to clear trees and vegetation from around a property.

Under the new laws, people with homes in a bush fire zone will be able to clear trees within 10 metres of their home, and other vegetation except trees within 50 metres of their house.

The NSW RFS Commissioner will determine where the 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement areas are and these areas will be published on the NSW RFS website.

The laws are designed to empower landowners to minimise the fuel loads near their homes. “A well prepared property, along with a completed Bush Fire Survival Plan, can minimise the risk of loss of life and property,” Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

The NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the measures on 29 May. “We saw last summer how devastating bush fires can be, which is why we are removing regulatory obstacles on homeowners who want to take sensible steps to protect their properties from bush fires,” Mr Baird said.

The legislation also applies to high-risk non-residential buildings, such as schools and hospitals in designated zones.

Eligible residents will not be able to begin clearing until after the laws are passed in NSW Parliament and the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice is finalised by the NSW RFS. Residents will be able to check their eligibility using the NSW RFS web tool which will be available once the laws are passed.

We are now very keen to see the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice.

10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice

The code of practice has not been published yet but the RFS has published the following information of their web site:

Proposed 10/50 rule to improve bush fire protection

If you live in a designated ‘10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area’, the proposed laws will allow you to:

Clear trees on your property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval; and
Clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs on your property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

You will be able to search for your property online to find out if you live in a 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area once the laws come into force. The online search will also let you know of any restrictions such as the slope of your property or areas of cultural significance which need to be protected.

RFS Link: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=4615

An Interview with Brian Williams (Vice President VFFA)

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Green Tape Prevents Volunteer Rural Firefighters from Reducing Bushfire Risk

VFFA Media Release – 3rd September 2013

The Volunteer Firefighters Association (VFFA), the body representing the Voice of Volunteer Rural Firefighters in NSW refutes the claim by green alarmists that climate change is the cause of the recent bushfires in New South Wales.

It’s ridiculous to blame climate change when we know there has been far worse bushfires stretching back to the earliest days of European settlement in Australia including the Black Saturday Victoria 2009, NSW Bushfires 1994, Ash Wednesday Victoria 1983, Blue Mountains NSW 1968, Black Tuesday Hobart 1967 and Black Friday Victoria 1939, said Peter Cannon, President of the VFFA.

The VFFA is angered by comments from the green lobby groups that tackling climate change was more important than prescribed burning of forest fuels to reduce bushfire risk. The real blame rests with the greens and their ideology as they continue to oppose and undermine our efforts to conduct hazard reduction in the cooler months and to prevent private landowners from clearing their lands to reduce bushfire risk.

Hazard reduction is the only proven management tool rural firefighters have to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires and this has been recognised in numerous bushfire enquires since the Stretton enquiry into the 1939 Victorian Bushfires.

The amount of ‘green tape’ we have to go through to get a burn approved is beyond frustrating; says Peter Cannon. The VFFA is calling on the NSW State Government to reduce the amount of green tape involved in planning and conducting hazard reductions, so that our Volunteer Firefighters can get on with the job of conducting fire prevention works in the cooler months to prevent the inevitable summer bushfire disasters that are now becoming a more regular feature.

The NSW State Government must also provide sufficient funding for bushfire hazard reduction works on a planned and sustained basis, including the creation of asset protection zones and upgrades of all fire trails in high bushfire risk areas.

Remember that it’s far more cost effective, say around 66 to 100 times more cost efficient, to prevent wild fires through hazard reduction than it is to have reactionary fire response, which is what we have at the moment. With the great number of lost homes and decreasing property values through these wild fires, what then will the total fiscal amount be…….when it could have all been prevented by effective Hazard reduction!

To increase the area treated by prescribed burning on bushfire prone lands from the current level of less than 1% per annum to a minimum of 5% per annum, as recommended by the Victorian Royal Commission and many leading bushfire experts.

Hazard Reduction by prescribed burning has been identified as a key management tool to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires in national bushfire enquiries since the 1939 Stretton Royal Commission. In this regard the VFFA supports:

  1. Strategic and targeted hazard reduction by prescribed burning to reduce forest fuel levels and bushfire threat to human life (including fire fighter safety), property and the environment in areas identified as high bushfire risk.
  2. Bushfire risk management planning approach based upon the ‘Canobolas’ Model in NSW.
  3. Integrated hazard reduction by prescribed burning and complementary methods such as slashing, grazing and cultivation.
  4. The provision of adequate recurrent state and commonwealth funding to rural fire agencies, land management agencies and local government for the creation and maintenance of asset protection zones and fire trails in high bushfire risk areas on a planned and sustained basis.

Ongoing relevant research on fire behaviour, prevention and management and the effects of fire on biodiversity through the bushfire Cooperative Research.

Mr. Peter Cannon

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