Australia — The Country Fire Authority is not aware of any Neighbourhood Safer Places designated anywhere in Victoria, the inquiry into Black Saturday has heard.
CFA Planning Systems executive manager Terry Hayes today told theBushfires Royal Commission he checked late on Friday but had still not received any formal advice of any location being designated.
“I would expect that this would be rapidly resolved but thats an expectation, and I have no evidence to support it,” he said.
“Well here we are approaching Christmas, and to the best of your knowledge theres not one thats been notified for the coming holiday season, and indeed what we can consider to be the peak of the fire season,” counsel assisting the commission Jack Rush, QC said.
“Yes, thats the situation.”
But lawyers for the Municipal Association of Victoria said three sites had been designated as Neighbourhood Safer Places.
Two of those are in the Shire of the Yarra Ranges and the other is in the Moorabool Shire.
But Greg Lyon, SC, admitted that information had not been passed on to the CFA.
Mr Hayes confirmed that the CFA had assessed 215 sites and found 104 complied.
He said that information was passed on to councils within a week of the assessment, but only three had so far been designated.
The commission today heard beaches, surf clubs, ovals and underground mines had all been rejected because they did not meet the criteria.
That criteria requires the site to be 140 metres away from surrounding vegetation.
The commission heard Gallipoli Park Oval, where up to 100 people sheltered and survived as the fire tore through Marysville on Black Saturday, would now not meet the criteria of a Neighbourhood Safer Place.
Mr Hayes defended the system, saying the only option would be to lessen the criteria which was a “difficult prospect”.
“None of us ever going into this thought it was going to be a simple concept. It is a complex issue,” Mr Hayes said.
“The CFA would have much preferred, as we were progressively assessing and certifying, that we could have been moving ahead.
“But there have been issues with the municipalities getting themselves organised. Its a new concept.
“None of us disagree that people need more options, but it has been complex and the decisions are local decisions.