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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Durras Community Demands Actions Not Words On Local Bushfire Response

Fletcher's Failures on Fires The Durras Community Association (DCA) is calling on the Commonwealth Government, especially the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher MP, to stop making excuses and start funding real on-ground actions to provide better bushfire protection for south coast communities.

‘The Durras community has asked for some specific simple communications upgrades to be funded to improve local resilience for bushfires and other emergencies but the response so far from governments, especially the Commonwealth has been absolutely pathetic’ said the Association’s President, Dr Trevor Daly. The DCA wrote to Minister Fletcher in late 2020 via local Federal MP Fiona Phillips requesting funding be provided to upgrade the power supply to the local National Broadband Network (NBN) fixed wireless tower (to place a 145 metre long aerial cable underground), and to fix the mobile phone blackspots on the Princess Highway between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla. Both NBN and mobile phone coverage is critical for regional communities to be able to receive emergency warnings, keep track of nearby bushfire fronts and maintain communications during fires, storms and all types of emergencies. ‘The Minister himself couldn’t even be bothered to reply to us himself and instead left it to his Chief of Staff, Ryan Bloxsom, to write back two months later refusing to act on our requests’, said Dr Daly (see copy of letter from Minister office below). ‘With regard to the NBN, Fletcher’s office said there is “no funding program” available to upgrade the NBN tower infrastructure at South Durras, yet there are millions of dollars in unspent bushfire funding that have still not been delivered to regional communities like ours nearly 18 months after the bushfires that devastated our region. "The DCA has obtained its own quote from local builders to do the job of relocating the NBN tower power cable underground and it will only cost about $30,000. So Minister Fletcher cannot even find this small amount of money to allocate to NBN Co to better protect our community. "Do we have to raise the funds and do these upgrade works ourselves?’ said Dr Daly. On the mobile phone blackspots, the Chief of Staff’s letter admits that ‘coverage is patchy or non-existent in places’ along this stretch of the national highway, but claims ‘it is a commercial decision’ of the local phone providers ‘whether to invest in mobile infrastructure in the area’. ‘It’s very convenient for bureaucrats and politicians to attempt to buck-pass the issue and hide behind the so-called commercial imperatives of the mobile phone companies. The fact is there are not enough customers in our area for the local Telco providers to justify doing upgrades on a commercial basis. We know this already. That is why our Association specifically asked Minister Fletcher to provide additional funding to the mobile phone providers to assist them to upgrade their local networks for emergency resilience and remove the existing black spots on the Princes Highway!’, stated Dr Daly. ‘The Chief of Staff even has the hide to say “the Morrison Government stands ready to help subsidise investment in areas where the commercial incentives are insufficient to drive the carriers to deliver new and improved services”. Well instead of ‘standing ready’ how about actually delivering as our community has requested? Show us the money Minister!’ ‘It appears to us that, as usual, small regional communities are being treated as a low priority by the Commonwealth Government. If these were emergency communication infrastructure needs in an Australian city they would be funded and delivered by now. Here we have the office manager of a Citybased politician telling my regional community his government can’t find a fairly small amount of funding to better protect us from bushfires. Well it’s not good enough! We now want to speak directly to the Minister responsible, not his unelected office messenger’, said Dr Daly. ‘I challenge Minister Fletcher to stop hiding behind his office staff and get out of the Canberra and Sydney bubbles, and come down to visit our community at South Durras so we can show him in person what the issues are and hopefully he can reconsider and start actually delivering better communications for our area’, stated Dr Daly. The DCA has sought the assistance of both local State Government Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, and local Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, to help ensure funding is delivered for the infrastructure upgrades identified by the Durras Community. The communications upgrade actions requested by the DCA were also provided in submissions to both the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and the Commonwealth Royal Commission. Both inquiry’s final reports highlighted the importance of upgrading communications infrastructure in high risk bushfire areas. South Durras is ranked as one of the highest risk communities in the Eurobodalla LGA in the Eurobodalla Bush Fire Risk Management Plan 2019 ‘Many in my community are angry that our very simple requests for help are being dismissed and ignored by people who did not go through what this area experienced in the summer of 2019-20. What is the point of our community writing submissions and letters and making positive suggestions for improvements when nothing changes? And before long we will go through all this again when the next bushfire or emergency hits our area and we are not as prepared as we should be’. ‘As our Association said over a year ago now, we don’t want to hear any more lame excuses and political spin from underperforming Governments. Infrastructure upgrades for emergencies is essential to protect our lives and homes. The current Commonwealth Government was asleep at the wheel prior to the 2019-20 bushfires and it seems they have still not woken up. 'How much longer do we have to wait before real action on the ground is taken to look after at-risk regional communities like ours? Actions speak louder than words!’ concluded Dr Daly.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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