Owners cool on fire land buyback

Owners cool on fire land buyback

11 August 2010

published by www.standard.net.au

Australia — The Bushfires Royal Commission’s proposal for a land buyback in high fire risk areas has attracted little support from people in the bushfire-prone areas in the south- west.

Dunkeld Progress Association secretary Mary-Ann Brown believed the voluntary buyback proposed would be an ineffective use of taxpayers’ money.

While Dunkeld has been declared as a high fire risk area, Ms Brown said she believed most people in the area had accepted that high fire risk when they made the decision to live in the area.

Fire came close to Dunkeld in 2006 when it spread from the Grampians and burnt through the Victoria Valley where many farms had areas of bushland.

Ms Brown said she personally believed more reduction burning and better warning systems about approaching fires would be more useful than a buyback scheme.

She said people should still have the right to stay and defend their home against a fire but better warning systems were needed.

People making a decision to stay or go should be as well informed as possible about what sort of fire they were facing, she said.

Ron Irvine, a resident of Peterborough that has also been declared a high fire risk area, also opposed a buyback scheme.

Mr Irvine has kept about 67 hectares of native bushland on his farm and said he would not sell it to a buyback scheme because it would split his property in half.

He said incentives to help landowners reduce the fire risk in their bush blocks were likely to be more effective than a buyback scheme.

Another Peterborough resident, Bruce Couch, said could see no sense in a buyback scheme.

Mr Couch, a former Moyne Shire councillor, believed people had the right to live where they chose as long as they took responsibility for their own safety during a bushfire.

Mr Couch believed there had been a massive over-reaction to the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

He fought the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires in the Naringal and Nullawarre areas and said there was no pattern to what homes were lost and those that survived the fires.

Mr Couch said many homes in the Halls Bridge area, east of Naringal, survived the fire despite being in area of dense bushland.

At Lavers Hill, another declared high fire risk area, Progress Association secretary Chris Harkin said he doubted a buyback scheme would be viable.

Mr Harkin said a buyback scheme at Lavers Hill would be very expensive with land on the Great Ocean Road fetching high prices.

He suggested a better approach would be to require properties in high fire risk areas to be noted as such in property transfer papers and to provide the buyers of properties in such areas with information packs from the Country Fire Authority and the State Emergency Services.

Mr Harkin believed the thousands of tourists who travelled on the Great Ocean Road each day were more at risk that locals in the event of a fire and a plan was needed to get them to safety.

“We need to have somewhere safe for both locals and tourists to get to,” he said.

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