Unkempt grass lots raise fire concern

The overgrown lot which borders Mary Street.

By Corey Everitt

Bunyip residents are demanding action to be taken against a fire hazard in the centre of town, after frustrations have boiled over from the council’s alleged inaction on the matter.

Two empty lots sit within the residential heart of Bunyip which currently have overgrown to the point where grass stands over a metre tall.

Each lot sits off Sarah Hansen Lane, one bordering Abeckett Road to the north and the other bordering Mary Street to the south.

Nearby residents, Joanne and Bobby Levine have seen these lots continually get overgrown, raising concerns about fire danger in the summer months.

“The inaction of the council, they just ignore us, every year we have had to chase them up,” Joanne said.

“Especially since the Bunyip fires people are very aware of the precautions and this year we’re expecting a pretty hot summer.”

The biggest concern is the potential hazard the lots present for fire.

Joanne and Bobby grow more concerned as fire season approaches, their concerns are doubled by their own experience with a grass fire.

Before moving to Bunyip they used to live on farmland north of Melbourne, where a grass fire caused by unkempt grass ripped through their area.

“We were impacted when we were on the land and the grass fire, it went like wildfire,” Joanne said.

“It raised up a tree and formed this fireball and landed in the middle of a neighbour’s paddock.”

Moving to Bunyip didn’t escape fire threats, as they would be evacuated during the 2019 Bunyip fires where they helped in community relief work.

Yet, concerns have turned to frustration as they seemingly can’t get those responsible to take on the simple task of mowing a patch of overgrown land.

“I said to them, I can’t even navigate it,” Joanne recalled over her conversations with Cardinia Shire Council in the middle of this year.

“And I was told that would be trespassing anyway.”

The council advises the community in preparation before fire seasons to keep grass below 10cm, they have fire prevention officers who conduct inspections to enforce rules like this. If a property is found in breach the owner receives a Fire Prevention Notice instructing them on hazards to eliminate within a certain time frame.

If an owner fails to do what was instructed they can receive a fine of up to $1923 and an order will be lodged for contractors to complete the necessary work at the owner’s expense.

Joanne raised this policy with the council.

“We thought if that’s the case, then we will keep on their back when it goes over ten centimetres and when it did they said they have no case to answer,” Joanne said.

“Unless things have changed in schools today that looks more than ten centimetres.

“Well I was a little bit confused because they don’t even adhere to their own legislation, their own rules and don’t follow them up.

“We just gave up on the council because it was such an insult to speak to them.”

Cardinia Shire Council’s manager regulatory services, Owen Hardidge said inspections begin this month.

“As part of Cardinia Shire Council’s annual Fire Hazard Inspection Program, we inspect all properties within high-risk bushfire areas, as well as follow up on specific complaints from residents,” Mr Hardidge said.

“Our Fire Hazard Inspection program occurs every year from November to March.

“In 2023, 4585 properties were inspected as part of this program, with 708 Fire Prevention Notices being issued. From these notices, council found 89 properties to be non-complaint.”

Mr Hardidge explained that residents can prepare for the fire season by:

· Slashing all grass and weeds on your block so they are less than 10 centimetres high, and ensure you maintain this length during the fire danger period.

· Clearing fallen branches and dead vegetation from around your property.

· Cleaning up fine fuels such as leaves, twigs, long grass and remove any rubbish.

· Creating a firebreak on larger rural properties at least 10 metres wide, along external fences by slashing grass and weeds to less than 10 centimetres.

“Before completing any works, residents should review native vegetation and planning permit requirements,” Mr Hardidge said.

He said if residents identify a property that they believe is a fire risk to please lodge a report to council via 1300 787 624 or email mail@cardinia.vic.gov.au