YOUR SAY: Legal threat stalls Neighbourhood Safer Places

YOUR SAY: Legal threat stalls Neighbourhood Safer Places     

11 October 2011

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Australia — A FIRE expert has warned the risk of litigation is stalling the process of establishing Neighbourhood Safer Places in fire-prone communities.

Melbourne University senior lecturer in fire ecology and management Kevin Tolhurst said residents should be able to go to a community building which would be defended from bushfires if their emergency plans failed. He said it should not just be a last resort.

Last month, Macedon Ranges councillors rejected Tony Clarke Reserve as a place of last resort, despite endorsement from the CFA and the shire’s municipal emergency management planning committee. A rescission motion will be heard tomorrow night.

Dr Tolhurst said clear legislation putting the onus of responsibility on the individual was needed.

“I think there should be places where people can go as a choice, rather than a last resort,” Dr Tolhurst said. “You still can’t guarantee the safety, the residual risk has to be with the individual.”

Dr Tolhurst, who also spoke at the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, said the criteria set for safer places was restrictive and stalling preparations.

Macedon Ranges Mayor Henry McLaughlin would not comment on the risk of litigation, telling the Leader last week the council was searching for the best possible option for Macedon/Mt Macedon.

Fire Services Commissioner spokeswoman Natalie Staaks said almost $1.2 million in funding was still on the table.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland last week warned of a difficult disaster season in summer with grassfire risk and above average severe storm activity.

But with a lot of moisture in the ground, there was a lowered risk of forest fires, he said.

The rescission motion will be heard at the Gisborne Council Chambers at 7pm tomorrow.

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