Open letter to Nillumbik Shire Council

To the Shire Councillors, past and present, who allowed so many men, women and children in our shire to die on Black Saturday I say ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’

I just took a look at the budget allocations you have made and they would be quite funny if 173 people had not died during the Black Saturday bushfires. You did not take the fire risk seriously before Black Saturday and it is obvious that you are still not taking the risk seriously.

Let’s have a look at those budget allocations shall we?

The highest rating shire in the state of Victoria has allocated :

$500,000 to the upgrade of AE Cracknell Reserve [park] in Panton Hill. Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$300,000 for further development at Edendale.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$290,000 for the Hurstbridge Skate park.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$320,000 for new toilets at Elthan Lower Park.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$105,000 to seal some carparks at ovals [sporting grounds] in Hurstbridge and Diamond Creek.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$150,000 for renewal works at Alistair Knox Park playground.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$1.15 million for roadworks. Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$445,000 for improvements to leisure centres and community halls.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$280,000 for road sealing.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$200,000 for new footpaths.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

So, out of a total budget allocation of $4,390,000 you have allocated just $650,000 to the saving of lives?

Why is it that everything else has more importance in your eyes? Do you really think the scrub has stopped growing in the years since Black Saturday? Do you really think it is going to stay green forever more?

I live here and I know that most of the shire is groaning under the fuel load you refuse to acknowledge, especially areas like North Warrandyte that did not burn last time.  We are all living in another tragedy that is just waiting to happen.

Did the Royal Commission into those 173 deaths have no impact on you at all? Does the fact that North Warrandyte, one of the most fire prone areas in the shire, has not one  ‘safe place’ mean nothing to you?  This whole shire is getting set up as one gigantic bbq, yet instead of using this grace period to make the shire safer you are building skate parks and prettying up leisure centres. What kind of priorities are these?

This Council does not look after a nice, cosy, safe inner Melbourne suburb where councils can afford to spend their money on ‘nice-to-haves’. Nillumbik shire is on the edge and we will burn again. Stop pretending that the problem has gone away for good. There are over 60,000 people living in Nillumbik and a huge proportion of that population is living in fire-prone areas. How many more of us can you afford to lose to the horrors of bushfire?

If Nillumbik Council’s budget is anything to judge by then clearly most of us are expendable.

Nillumbik Shire Council was not brought to account for the deaths that occurred during Black Saturday but I swear that if I survive the next one I will not rest until I bankrupt this pathetic excuse for a local government. Shame, Nillumbik, shame.

Yours most sincerely.

 

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

15 responses to “Open letter to Nillumbik Shire Council

  • acflory

    -giggles- I’m not! Honest. 😀 We have a lot of place names that have come from local aboriginal words and I think Nillumbik is one of them. I think the shire part would be the equivalent of maybe a ‘county’. Anyway it covers a fair bit of space. No hobbits though. 😉

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  • pinkagendist

    Nillumbik Shire? Now you’re just making up names… 😛

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  • metan

    Synique, we moved here a very long time ago and we lived through the big fires before Black Saturday which were not worrying to us at all even though they came far closer. From my verandah I can still see the bare trees remaining from that fire sticking out of the forest canopy.

    The problem is that since then it has become less safe each year while the council spend our rates on other things. They seem to be more interested in making it pretty for tourists than safer for us residents.

    If they didn’t allow the tracks to become overgrown the fire trucks would be able to get in there more easily and do their job earlier. We go out in the bush a lot and the undergrowth is at frightening levels.

    If they continue subdividing and let more and more people live in the shire without ensuring there are the facilities for them (like safe roads) they are inviting disaster.

    The council is not responsible for keeping me safe, I can do that all by myself, I am not an idiot. However they should be spending our money responsibly.

    By the way, my garden is kept cleared at all times and we do our best to keep ourselves safe, the biggest danger is from our mower-shy neighbours who seem to think that waist high grass is a good thing. If only fire knew who was trying hard and who didn’t bother, but once it is sweeping through the valley it isn’t going to jump over my house and only take out those lazy neighbours is it?

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    • acflory

      Good points Metan, all of them. The neighbours on either side of me make an effort to keep their blocks cleared, even though both have said their fireplan is to leave. But we’re the ones on the ridge. Down in the valley north of us the scrub and undergrowth is close to chest high and no-one seems to care, even those the residents down there have only a single lane dirt road for access in or out. I would never deny anyone shelter [assuming my place isn’t burning already] but I’d probably feel a wee bit of resentment afterwards :/

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  • acflory

    You have a right to your opinion Synique but if you read this old post of mine

    http://wp.me/p25AFu-a

    you will see that I have put every cent of my own money where my mouth is by installing every single protection that is currently available AND by ensuring that my block is cleared of scrub and landscaped for survival.

    I was lucky, I had an inheritance to blow on keeping us alive in this place where we have chosen to live. I could have spent that money on a fancy new car or holidays etc but I /chose/ to spend it on safety.

    Most people do not have that kind of spare cash. Most people still believe that the authorities won’t let anything like that happen to them. Most people do the normal, human thing and they ‘wait and see’. That is part of the reason why so many people died on Black Saturday. And that is why they will die again the next time and the one after that.

    Another reason so many died was because they trusted the authorities and believed that their homes could save them – with nothing but buckets and mops and clean gutters.

    The third reason so many people died was because people like you ignored the science about fuel loads and banned all the old time methods of keeping bushfires to more or less manageable levels. Ask the cockies out in the country about bushfires. You may get a surprise.

    The fourth reason so many died was because councils like Nillumbik took away residents’ rights to protect themselves and PUT NOTHING IN THEIR PLACE. They are still paying lip service to the whole problem while raking in rates from communities that should never have been built in the first place.

    You’re angry. I can understand that. But trust me Synique, I’m angry too, very, very angry and if you want to trade facts instead of ideology then I’m more than happy to debate this for as long as you wish.

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    • Synique

      Ok, I’ve read your article and you’ve poured a lot of money into your protection systems. I agree with everything you’ve done except about the bunkers – after finding people who suffocated in their bunker when the fire took all their oxygen makes me dubious about how effective they are.

      However, all that is it enough for a Black Saturday type fire. Properties even better se up were destroyed with their occupants, even houses in the middle of cleared paddocks. Something that was apparent frm the Royal Commission was tha man houses lost their roofs in the weather, making all other protections useless. How well secured is your roof to your house?

      The authorities, as you refer to them, are making it clear that staying and defending is dangerous and risky. People’s plans must be to leave early – there is nothing that can be done to ensure safety if people stay.

      As for the science, studies research from Black Saturday showed that the location of fuel reduction burns is critical. The 5% target is useless, as to be effective the fuel reduction burns need to be close the assets being protected. The authorities, councils and residents are making to impossible to do these burns due to fear of them getting away, but no burn is risk free.

      Nillumbik could double or treble or quadruple our rates, and use it all on fire prevention works, but they will still only be pissing around the edges.

      We live in a high fire danger area. We need to accept it.

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      • acflory

        Thanks for taking the time to read that post Synique.

        re: bunkers – they have to be sealed or you’re absolutely right, they’ll be useless to save lives. My own take on it is that if all hope was gone I’d rather die of suffocation inside a bunker than burn to death outside. Morbid I know but that’s just me.

        In the US people are evacuated, end of story. I understand at least part of the reason why that doesn’t happen here and I know that I would want to stay anyway – but my house is probably as safe as any place in Warrandyte. The problem with the leave early policy is that it’s bad psychology. Some people will leave early for the first few dangerous days but when nothing happens they’ll begin to think that next time they’ll just wait a bit, until they have a better idea of how real the danger is. -shrug- Stupid? Possibly, but it /is/ the way humans think and behave and ignoring that reality doesn’t help anyone.

        Controlled burns : I agree that controlled burns around the places where people actually live are very risky BUT there are other ways of accomplishing the same result. Letting cattle, horses, alpacas you name it graze is one slow, long term method that is cheap and effective but it isn’t politically correct at the moment. Slashing is another but that is labour intensive and therefore very expensive. So controlled burns are the cheapest ACCEPTABLE method. Unfortunately when burns aren’t possible there is no plan B.

        I agree that Nillumbik is huge with lots of different types of terrain and no easy or cheap solutions but as Metan said, providing access to the most fire prone areas is possible to do. Constructing permanent firebreaks around communities is also possible to do. Investing in community shelters is also possible but expensive, especially with regards to insurance. And that’s why so little is being done. Because it’s hard and costs money.

        I’m no fool. I know we can’t stop bushfires from happening but we can and should be reducing the harm they can do. Lives should be the no. 1 priority. Instead everyone’s hoping it wont’ happen again for another 25 years or so. Sadly all we need is another drought and we’ll be up shit creek without a paddle all over again.

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      • acflory

        Thanks for taking the time to read that post Synique.

        re: bunkers – they have to be sealed or you’re absolutely right, they’ll be useless to save lives. My own take on it is that if all hope was gone I’d rather die of suffocation inside a bunker than burn to death outside. Morbid I know but that’s just me.

        In the US people are evacuated, end of story. I understand at least part of the reason why that doesn’t happen here and I know that I would want to stay anyway – but my house is probably as safe as any place in Warrandyte. The problem with the leave early policy is that it’s bad psychology. Some people will leave early for the first few dangerous days but when nothing happens they’ll begin to think that next time they’ll just wait a bit, until they have a better idea of how real the danger is. -shrug- Stupid? Possibly, but it /is/ the way humans think and behave and ignoring that reality doesn’t help anyone.

        Controlled burns : I agree that controlled burns around the places where people actually live are very risky BUT there are other ways of accomplishing the same result. Letting cattle, horses, alpacas you name it graze is one slow, long term method that is cheap and effective but it isn’t politically correct at the moment. Slashing is another but that is labour intensive and therefore very expensive. So controlled burns are the cheapest ACCEPTABLE method. Unfortunately when burns aren’t possible there is no plan B.

        I agree that Nillumbik is huge with lots of different types of terrain and no easy or cheap solutions but as Metan said, providing access to the most fire prone areas is possible to do. Constructing permanent firebreaks around communities is also possible to do. Investing in community shelters is also possible but expensive, especially with regards to insurance. And that’s why so little is being done. Because it’s hard and costs money.

        I’m no fool. I know we can’t stop bushfires from happening but we can and should be reducing the harm they can do. Lives should be the no. 1 priority. Instead everyone’s hoping it wont’ happen again for another 25 years or so. Sadly all we need is another drought and we’ll be up shit creek without a paddle all over again.

        p.s. Just remembered another cheap but politically incorrect method of protecting communities – planting fire-retardant exotics. Yet councils are still planting high fire risk natives in reserves and parks and stipulating that residents plant the same kind of vegetation up to and around their houses. The idea is to embed the houses so they disappear from view and so do not disrupt the aesthetic of the area.

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  • Synique

    You people are incredible. You have chosen to live in a fire prone area but you seem to think the council is responsible for protecting you from that decision.

    I’ve chosen to live here because of the bush. I don’t want see the countryside denuded and turned into a barren landscape because you can’t take responsibility for where you live.

    The only fire protection that will work is to leave early. Nothing the council can do will be any safer.

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  • johnlmalone

    good luck with this. your letter makes persuasive reading, the funds allocated to the skate park, for instance, do seem out of all proportion to those allocated for fire prevention. councils need people like you to be ‘on their case’

    Like

    • acflory

      Thank John. Sadly I know I won’t even make a dint in their arrogance. I guess I’m just hoping that other residents less paranoid than I am will realise how dangerous the place can be and how little real help or support they can expect.

      So many people I talk to still have this optimistic belief that they can just ‘leave’ if there’s any danger so there’s no need to take any precautions. 😦 They scare me to death.

      Like

  • acflory

    Sadly it all boils down to money. The ‘old’ stay and go policy was based on the idea that homes that are actively protected stay in one piece so no big insurance payouts. And, coincidentally if you save your house you save yourself as well. Nice theory for ordinary, garden variety bushfires but when you team 11 years of drought, 11 plus years of no clearing and a massive heatwave you don’t get nice, ordinary bushfires. The drought is gone, for now, but the fuel load is even higher than before and all it will take is a normal summer to dry it all out and we’re in trouble again. Not as big trouble as Black Saturday but trouble nonetheless.

    Anyway I’d better get to bed instead of ranting any more today 😉 Night night.

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  • metan

    Since Black Saturday our town was blessed with a ‘Neighbourhood Safer Place’, it is the tree-ringed footy oval. Single lane access, thousands of people. I don’t think a single thing has been done to make us safer other than erecting the signs around the oval.

    Sometimes I think these shire councils are waiting for it all to burn so they can rebuild better the next time around. Too bad for us though isn’t it…

    Like

    • acflory

      We have a footy oval but for some reason it isn’t suitable. To be honest I wouldn’t trust my life to a footy oval unless it was in the middle of lots of open ground but finding such open spaces should only be a stop gap measure until the local councils come up with something better.

      Clearly they don’t consider the threat serious enough to ‘waste’ any money on it. In fact none of them have done a damn thing. I seriously hate the whole concept of local councils. They’re corrupt, inept and stuffed to the gills with people who can’t keep their politics out of decisions that should be made on the basis of commonsense and bloody science.

      Apologies. I’ve been angry all day and I’m still fuming… mostly at the fact that there’s nothing I can do to change things.

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      • metan

        Our oval is far from suitable too, and only a few hundred metres from my extremely unsuitable house.

        There used to be underground fire refuges along the Woods Point Road but from what I can tell they have been closed. They are out in the bush far from homes but were there for people caught out on the road in a fire. Now you just have to sit on the side of the road and die apparently.

        I understand that if they supply places to go then they are taking responsibility for the people who use it, and if they die well, that causes all kinds of trouble.

        The problem is that we have nowhere to go unless we drive to a town down the line, just like you. Do they really think we are going to abandon our homes, jobs, schools etc every time there is a risky day?

        You are allowed to be angry, I can’t wait to hear what you say when the weather gets hotter and still nothing has been done!

        Like

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