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.
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”.
SO, TO THE NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE WE SAY THIS:
“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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mr Cheney’s report has not been properly acknowledged by the RFS or the NPWS.
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.