Not so easy to bunker down

Not so easy to bunker down

20 October 2010

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Australia —  HILLS councils say it could take up to six weeks to process bushfire bunker applications, exposing State Government claims new national standards are in place “in time for this bushfire season”.

Less than six weeks from the fire danger season, Onkaparinga and Mitcham councils say it could take the same amount of time to process building applications for private shelters.

After that, the applications must be seen by the government’s Building Rules Assessment Commission to ensure the bunkers met new national standards.

Only then may work start on a private bushfire bunker.

Mitcham Council’s acting chief executive Judith Jones said there was not “sufficient time” for bunkers to be built before the bushfire season.

“It will be difficult for people to get their approvals and then do their construction prior to the start of the bushfire season,” she said.

“Because of the lateness of this, it probably will have some impact for this year but certainly for next year, it should run far more smoothly.”

Onkaparinga city development manager Terry Sutcliffe said the council had four weeks to assess a building application and the commission was given two weeks to ensure it complied with the new standards.

“It could be a potential of say six weeks, if we take our full four weeks and they (commission) take their full two weeks,” he said. “We would expect to see more applications soon and undertaking construction if not before, (then) during the course of this fire season.”

Last week Mitcham and Onkaparinga councils were yet to receive any building applications for private bunkers.

In announcing the new national standards for shelters last week, Planning Minister Paul Holloway said the state was joining “Victoria in adopting the national standard in time for this bushfire season”.

Victoria has had interim standards for shelters in place since November last year.

CFS chief officer Euan Ferguson said the CFS and State Government had worked as quickly as possible to adopt the new national standards.

“We’re talking about standards which often take many years to develop,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said all Hills residents should consider bunkers to “increase (their) chances of survival”.

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