Friday, November 27, 2009

neighbourhood safer places

report from the roundtable – 24 nov

I felt compelled to address the issue of establishing Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) after a presentation by the Dandenong Ranges Community Bushfire Group where it was said that the identification of NSPs was ‘not happening’.

I assured the public in the gallery that the shire has been working very hard on this issue (to date 63 sites have been forwarded to the CFA for assessment). I explained that as late as the 13th November at 6:08pm (so realistically it may as well be Monday morning, the 16th Nov) council was informed that we now need to develop a Neighbourhood Safer Place Plan (NSPP) as part of the process. In a time where our emergency personnel have been working tirelessly we now find there is even more work for them to do.

It has been imposed on us by state government at a time when we are in the full swing of bushfire preparedness. Not only does council have to prepare a NSPP, it must be endorsed by council, then accepted by the Treasurer BEFORE we can start to nominate NSPs. It also holds up the endorsement of our Municipal Emergency Management Plan which needs to incorporate locations of NSPs. The development of the plan and sign off by the Treasurer will ensure that council receives indemnity from the state government should there be a death or injury of a person using an NSP as a shelter from bushfire or if there is a failure by council to designate a place as a NSP.

The timelines to the fire danger period are looming closer and closer and we find ourselves dealing with yet more bureaucracy around NSPs. I have no doubt that the Dandenong Ranges are the hottest of bushfire hotspots in the state and always have been. I have great faith in our staff and their commitment to seeing an NSPP delivered but am appalled by the lateness of this information. We have much to contend with and this timing is atrocious.

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