Wednesday, December 23, 2009

two more places of last resort for the dandenongs

report from the roundtable – 22 dec

This week’s council meeting, not on the original schedule of meetings, was called to consider Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs)/ Places of Last Resort for Yarra Ranges.

Last Friday I spent time with the assessment team looking at five sites across the Dandenong Ranges including the rear of the Olinda shops, Ferny Creek Horticultural Society grounds, Alexander’s Carpark in Belgrave, Belgrave Recreation Reserve and the Upwey Recreation Reserve. The CFA, Victoria Police and the Shire were all represented on the assessment team.

As a result of the assessments undertaken on those site visits two sites were referred to council for consideration to be designated as NSPs. I moved the motion to support the two sites. Council unanimously supported both the Belgrave and Upwey Recreation Reserves as designated NSPs.

I still continue to be concerned about community perceptions about NSPs, in many cases they are figuring as part of people’s fire plans and not being seen as a last ditch effort to survive when all else has failed.

There has been some conjecture out in the community that council can oppose the designation of NSPs based on ideological grounds, however the legislation is quite clear and states that councils ‘must’ identify and designate NSPs. The Act goes on to say that council is not required to designate an NSP if the council is satisfied on ‘reasonable grounds’ that it is not appropriate to designate.

There is a degree of ambiguity about what the definition of ‘reasonable grounds’ is, so I went on to move a further motion to assist council to better understand our obligations under the new legislation.

“That council seeks legal opinion on the definition of reasonable grounds as referred to in Section 50G, clause 7 (b) of the Emergency Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2009.”

It is important that we understand the full implications of the Act, much of the logistics and policy on the implementation of NSPs has been done on the run, it is time to gain a more informed insight into the Act.

As a councillor in the Dandenong Ranges I think it is important that we use our best efforts as a council to identify NSPs, but it is also important that the community and visitors understand that these are places of last resort. They offer no guarantee of safety or survival, they are places of last resort where you might have a better chance of protection from radiant heat, when all else has failed.

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