Tag: The Biggest Estate on Earth

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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NSW RFS Library – August 2012

Thanks everyone who gave feedback on the June issue of New Arrivals, your comments are appreciated and will help us to improve future editions.

Last month we featured the Celeste Geer documentary “Then the Wind Changed” presented at the 2012 Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference. With help from Nicole Miller in the Community Engagement Team we have now finished loading all the presentations from the Conference on to the Library catalogue, you can see them all here:

Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference presentations

Fire Prevention Posters

This month our newest arrivals are actually quite old – six original posters dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, some featuring Smokey, the NSW Bush Fire Committee’s fire prevention koala. Smokey made his debut appearance at the 1957 Royal Easter Show. The Bush Fire Bulletin reported at the time that: “…from now on the winsome and animated N.S.W. “Smokey” will be making regular appeals for the exercise of care and caution in the use of fire…”.

See him in all his cuteness in the posters, which were donated to us by Tim Carroll, Manager Lake George Zone. We’ve scanned them and added links to the Library catalogue (click on “Full Display” and find the link to the PDF file to download the posters)

Bush Fire Bulletin

Speaking of the Bulletin, this year we celebrate its 60th birthday. The NSW RFS Library holds a full set of the Bush Fire Bulletin from its first issue in 1952 and receives many requests for copies of articles from past editions. We have gradually been indexing the articles, and there are now over 1300 Bulletin items you can find on the Library catalogue. Just go to the main library search screen and combine your search term with the words “Bush Fire Bulletin” to find them.

Brigade Histories

The Library also holds a small but very special collection of brigade histories contributed by NSW RFS members. If you are thinking of compiling your own brigade’s history you can look at how others have done it, and of course we’d love to grow this collection with your contribution.

Early Bush Fire Films

Continuing the historic theme, these four fascinating films from the 1940s and 1950s are available for loan on one DVD:

  • Bushfire Brigade (1949) shows how volunteer bush fire brigades were first organised to prevent and fight fires.
  • Bushfire Prevention (1949) probably used for bushfire prevention and training purposes -sadly the soundtrack did not survive.
  • Bushfire Menace Here Again (1951) a newsreel item from 1951 illustrates the damage fires can cause to rural industries.
  • Who Helps the Enemy? (1945) During WWII the government became concerned that the Japanese army might use bush fire as a weapon on coastal NSW. This Movietone short was played in cinemas to warn people of the danger, with the tag line  “Remember, disaster in Australia means joy in Tokio” (sic)

Library Research Service

A reminder that the Library conducts research for both staff and volunteers. The Library holds many more valuable historical resources and has contacts throughout the other fire emergency libraries in Australia. We welcome the opportunity to research NSW RFS history as it expands the library’s collection which in turn contributes to the organisation’s knowledge base – contact the NSW RFS Library for research support.

New Book – borrow it now

Just announced! 2012 Winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History             

For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year.

See other recent additions to the Library catalogue

Many of these are available as full-text documents for immediate viewing.
New Books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles…

If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  RFS.Library@rfs.nsw.gov.au  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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