Council heads into firestorm as it dismisses RFS advice
The Nature Coast Alliance has warned that it will seek Eurobodalla Shire Council’s dismissal if it proceeds with rural planning changes without heeding critical fire risk advice from the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Noel Plumb, Convenor of the Alliance, says “The rejection of the advice from the RFS places the lives of Eurobodalla residents, visitors and firefighters at risk and further increases the already high fire risk to our forests, wetlands and iconic landscape. This is unacceptable”
“It also raises the very real prospect of massive public liability claims against Council and litigation costs for loss of lives, personal injury or destruction of property, livestock and pasture if a bushfire is caused or worsened by Council’s changes which dismiss the critical advice of the RFS. Council may even not be able to obtain future public liability cover except at a massively increased cost to ratepayers”
The Alliance has now obtained the latest RFS correspondence to Council, dated 28 June 2018, in which the RFS reinforces its objections to Council’s Rural Lands Planning Proposal, a major change to LEP 2012 -the planning blueprint for the Shire.
The RFS has told Council, “It is the position of the NSW RFS that the exhibited Planning Proposal is not consistent with s117(2) 4.4 Direction [ i.e. an instruction from the NSW Minister for Planning] as it does not achieve the primary objective to protect life, property and the environment and the NSW RFS considers that it should not proceed in its current form.”
Mr Plumb said, “Just a few days ago the Council arrogantly refused to delay approval of its significant rural planning changes despite scathing objections dating back nearly three years from the RFS and other expert State agencies.”
“The Council, with Mayor Innes leading the charge, voted seven to two that it would not meet with the RFS or other expert State agencies before proceeding despite the strenuous attempts of Councillors Mayne and McGinlay, supported by an overflow crowd of residents and community group representatives, for Council to meet the agencies.”
The RFS has also told Council “The NSW RFS wrote to the Eurobodalla Shire Council on 4 December 2015 and 12 July 2016 (copies attached) with concerns in relation to a number of items within the Rural Lands Strategy and Draft Plannlng Proposal. Those letters provided detailed comments relating to potential bush fire risk impacts from the Planning Proposal and Justification for requesting a strategic bush fire study be undertaken to support the proposal prior to exhibition. The NSW RFS provided detailed comments, attended meetings and joint site inspections with Council and other agencies in order to discuss the contents of the Planning Proposal and further explain our concerns. Notwithstanding, the Planning Proposal appears largely unchanged from previous versions and has not addressed the specific concerns Identified by the NSW RFS nor undertaken a strategic bush fire study.” [NCA bold highlight]
“The Council rejected discussion with the agencies of their highly critical and wide ranging objections,” said Mr Plumb, “including life threatening fire risks, inappropriate use of high value agricultural land, economic threats to the Shire’s critical tourism and oyster industries and widespread threats to biodiversity including threatened and highly endangered species such as the Greater Glider and Swift Parrot.”
“This is unacceptable. It is an irresponsible, ignorant and dangerous position for Council to take in a landscape already subject to a high fire risk from intensive commercial forestry in the State Forests, annual burn offs by rural landholders and numerous campsite fires. All compounded by climate change where scientific evidence shows the south east region is already experiencing increased temperatures and less rainfall. The earliest ever fire risk season has just been declared!”
“Council must stop, look and listen to the community and withdraw the planning changes for expert scientific and technical review and genuine community consultation.”
“If it will not do so, the Alliance will seek the dismissal of Council for its irresponsible actions.”
“In the meantime, the community will ask the Minister for Planning to reject the Planning Proposal when sent to him by Council for approval. We also will call upon the local member for Bega, the Hon. Andrew Constance for his support in opposing the changes given the circumstances now revealed and the objections of the agencies.” CLICK HERE for correspondence by RFS with ESC since 2015 (see pages 26-28 for 28 June letter)
Are the Councillors playing with fire by ignoring the RFS ?