Environment Protection Authority changes policy to give councils more power to control bushfire hazard reduction in Adelaide Hills

Environment Protection Authority changes policy to give councils more power to control bushfire hazard reduction in Adelaide Hills

20 July 2016

published by http://www.adelaidenow.com.au

Australia —  RESIDENTS in parts of the Adelaide Hills will now require council approval to burn off outside the fire danger season once a new Environment Protection Authority policy comes into play this week.

Those living in the Adelaide Hills Council metropolitan district currently do not require approval to reduce fuels outside the fire danger season, from November to April.

The new burning rules — which will give councils the power to allow fuel reduction by general notice or permit — will start this Saturday, July 23.

It is the first time the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has reviewed the policy in 22 years.

But the changes have angered some Hills residents who believe further red tape could discourage land owners from clearing their properties.

Ash Wednesday survivor Tom Playford, of Norton Summit, said the changes would result in an “under-resourced” council having complete control over fuel reduction.

“They’ll burn us out — controls put in place that are inappropriate for the Hills, that could increase fuel loads, will have catastrophic effects,” he said.

“Loads are growing and now they’re bringing in even more legislation to make it even more difficult.

“You’re relying on another authority — the council — to administer the State Government’s policy without further resources.

“If I sought a permit today to burn tomorrow, the conditions probably wouldn’t be right (and) I wouldn’t burn at a time where the conditions were not right because it could get away.

“But during winter, typically, I couldn’t get a fire burning.

“A permit is only useful if it applies for an extended period of time so the landowner can choose the time that is appropriate.”

He said many of his Hills neighbours echoed his concerns about the policy.

But EPA science and assessment director Peter Dolan said the new Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy was aimed at reducing the impact of smoke on SA residents.

“The new policy will restrict burning off in townships and metropolitan Adelaide but burning for fuel reduction will be permitted by general notice or permit, at the discretion of each council,” he said.

He said the changes would “reduce red tape” and create more flexibility for Adelaide councils.

“The EPA expects that the revised policy will also reduce the high number of burns that get away and risk major bushfire — an average of 310 each year according to CFS statistics,” he said.

But he said the changes would “reflect the status quo” for most South Australians.

The changes will only impact residents in the Adelaide Hills Council metropolitan district, which includes a section of the Hills extending from Dorset Vale to Teringie.

It includes Norton Summit, Crafers, Stirling and Bridgewater.

But Adelaide Hills Council waste, health and regulatory services manager John McArthur said the policy gave the council the power to allow — by general notice in the newspaper — its own burning controls for bushfire hazard reduction.

“We intend to use the flexibility provided by the policy to the benefit of the community to put in place burning controls that result in no material change for those areas outside of townships located within the Adelaide metropolitan area,” he said.

A CFS spokesman said the service was supportive of the changes.

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