Councillor calls for urgent fire buffer

Snowy Valleys Councillor Geoff Pritchard has submitted a notice of motion for council’s December meeting in an effort to create fire buffer zones around Tumut.

Cr Pritchard said that getting bulldozers to clear land in fire-prone areas in some areas of Tumut was a matter of urgency.

With the final council meeting of the year due soon and another not slated until late January, Cr Pritchard warned that there wasn’t much time to address and resolve the issue.

“This will really be the last opportunity to do something,” he said. “I personally feel very strongly about this. It would be negligent not to put it on the table.”

In a letter submitted to council’s CEO Matthew Hyde, Cr Pritchard addressed his concerns by stating that, with fires to the north and along the east coast, the Snowy Valleys was sitting in a concerning area.

“The danger to Tumut is predominately from the west. The golf course gives a good firebreak but there is a very vulnerable section southwards towards the old tip in Boonderoo Street. There have already been resident’s concerns raised.

“Fortunately, we have excellent fire services but they could be quickly overwhelmed in these arid times, particularly if there were deliberate arson activities.

“I feel that it would be wise to be proactive and establish a permanent protective fire break, where possible, in that area.”

His request to council to heed the concerns of various members of the community comes on the heel of recent endeavours by the Tumut Community Association to do the same. An attempt to put the issue forward to RFS personnel, National Parks & Wildlife and forestry saw no progress due to RFS having commitments fighting a fire in Khancoban. 

“The extreme concern is that if we don’t make an effort to get bull-dozers to those risky areas and create fire breaks now before we get to our peak danger period in January and February, we will run out of time. We are much better off doing it now rather than waiting until later when it will be too late and too dangerous to do anything,” Cr Pritchard said.

“It would be prudent to those areas because generally fires come from the west because its that area where wind comes through. Given the direction of wind, the heat and what has been happening around the country, I think it could be an especially bad season and we should be taking all measures to curb the risk,” he said.

Cr Pritchard said that the issue with council, forestry, national parks and the RFS juggling the responsibility of securing crown lands was potentially causing complacency.

“That’s a fog that we have to look through- who is responsible. Local government has the primary responsibility to look after its community and we can’t just keep saying that it’s for someone else to worry about. It doesn’t matter who puts a bulldozer down to do the work, as long as it happens,” he said.