When all else fails

ON THE back of failed bushfire plans, Cardinia Shire Council has named three locations as the potential sites for neighbourhood safer places and they want to hear from residents in areas of high fire risk.
Following the Black Saturday bushfires and the subsequent Royal Commission which recommended clarity over the need for designated meeting spots, the council has identified the Pine Grove Hotel car park in Upper Beaconsfield, the Worrell Reserve oval in Emerald and the Cockatoo Sports Complex building as the proposed places of last resort for residents in bushfire prone towns.
The council’s Community, Risk and Emergency Management Manager Myles O’Reilly said a place of last resort was an option when everything else in resident’s bushfire plans failed.
“These are places that are only slightly safer,” he said.
“Every year these places of last resort would be inspected.”
Mr O’Reilly said residents had campaigned for places of last resort and the council identified 12 potential sites in late 2012.
Each site was rated on factors such as access and egress, ongoing maintenance requirements, defendable space availability and signage.
Mr O’Reilly said the council wanted to make the community aware of the proposed spots and hear from residents about whether they agreed with the location. He said the council would make the final decision following community consultation.
“There is work to be done to get these places up to scratch – including possible vegetation removal works, better access and so on,” he said.
Mayor Brett Owen said the shire had one designated neighbourhood safer place in Gembrook but owing to the high fire risk throughout the shire, residents had requested more.
“Residents living in high fire-risk areas still need to have a bushfire survival plan but in extreme conditions such as those experienced on Black Saturday, even the best prepared survival plan can fail,” Cr Owen said.
“This may leave residents already under extreme stress and threat, in need of a place of last resort.
“That’s where a neighbourhood safer place may provide some protection from direct flame and radiant heat.”
The council also consulted with the Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley who has pledged funding support towards the project.
A six-week consultation period will give residents until Monday 15 April to provide their input. Feedback can be submitted via email at fire@cardinia.vic.gov.au
Further information and detailed maps of townships are available on the ’Have your say on neighbourhood safer places – places of last resort’ web page.
Questions can be directed to Council’s Municipal Emergency Manager on 1300 787 624.