Residents want fire compensation guarantee

Barry Millgate, Mark Simpkinson, Andrew Morrow, Stewart Bates, James Morton, David Wanless, Mary Millgate, Peter Galvin and Jacqueline Zakharia discuss burnoff plans.

COLAC district residents are demanding a guarantee of compensation after the State Government dismissed calls to cancel a planned burnoff.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment organised a meeting with landowners in the Boonah area, east of Deans Marsh, to address concerns about nearby burnoffs scheduled for this year.

Residents, including a young family, a couple who lost their home in the 1993 Ash Wednesday blaze and a vineyard owner, had a list of questions for DSE and fire officers including how they planned to control the burn to prevent property damage.

Neighbouring landowners George Zakharia and David Wanless said the residents would be satisfied if the DSE called off the planned fuel reduction burn near Bambrah-Boonah Road.

But DSE officers said the three-year burn program was part of strategic fire prevention plan.

DSE district land and fire manager for the Otways Andrew Morrow said burnoffs in the Boonah area aimed to slow down the potential spread of a fire from grasslands to the Lorne and Aireys Inlet coast and increase the time to notify the community of risk.

“It’s not just about protecting most of the people on the coast, but you guys in the area will have benefits,” Mr Morrow said.

But residents at the meeting wanted evidence that burnoffs prevented fires and questioned how authorities would fight an out-of-control fire in inaccessible land earmarked for the burns.

Bambra-Boonah Road resident Jacqueline Zakharia said the community’s concern and number of questions for DSE staff about the planned burns showed “poor communication with the general community”.

“But if they are going ahead with it; we’re not going to stop it but we want to know what’s going to happen if it gets out of hand.

“I have demanded to read the DSE’s legal documents about compensation; does it mean orchards, sheds, houses?” she said.

“There are a lot of people with asthma in the firing line and neighbours with young children want to know if they should pack up and go for the day.”

Mr Morrow said the DSE was “following up” questions over compensation if authorities lost control of a planned burn.

“We might have a burn that gets out and burns some fencing and we aim to make good if that is the case and there are other broader impacts; there will be substantial amounts of smoke,” he said.

“It was a pretty productive meeting and there is an opportunity for building on the network of contacts and working closely with communities as people become interested in burning in their areas.”

Comments are closed.