Crown Lands need clearing before summer

Fuel loads on crown lands around Batlow are prompting some community concern as the town starts to look towards the arrival of another fire season.

Snowy Valleys Mayor James Hayes said he wants the lands to be made safer for the protection of the community.

He was especially concerned about the public lands at the entrance to Batlow which sit opposite the caravan park, but said it’s unlikely that the issue will get any attention from the ranking decision makers unless the request is driven by the local people.

“The community has got to ask for it and for this land to be made safer and utilised,” said Cr Hayes. 

“There’s not much point having land sitting there not being used for anything except endangering the town.”

There has also long been calls to reduce the fuel load on another area of Crown Lands on the other side of Batlow, an area encompassing the lookout. It burnt in  in January when the Dunns Road Fire swept into town.

Snowy Valleys CEO Matthew Hyde met with representatives from Crown Lands last week to discuss the issue.

An SVC spokesperson explained that the land immediately behind Batlow, including the lookout, is Crown Land and is “reserved for the purpose of the promotion of study and preservation of native flora and fauna as well as public recreation and is categorised as native area – bushland.”

Council manages the area on behalf of Crown Lands, but Cr Hayes said they are severely restricted in how they can manage the fuel loads.

The SVC spokesperson said the council has “heard the community’s concerns about bushfire mitigation measures in the area.” 

“To this end we have enquired as to what bushfire mitigation measures we will be permitted to undertake,” they said.

“As Council is not the landowner, we cannot undertake works until permission is granted – we are working with the state departments to receive this permission.”

The spokesperson also said that there are discussions taking place about using the Crown Lands in Batlow as a fuel reduced buffer while still maintaining compliance with the purpose of the reserve.

Cr Hayes said that along with fuel reduction in Batlow, he’d like to see the Crown Lands in Tumut cleared and potentially developed into housing areas.

“The bush common and those sort of areas,” he explained. “There’s been plans forever to see it go to better use. 

“We had catastrophic conditions leading up to the last bushfire, but we also had some contributing factors which was excessive buildup of fire mass on the ground and combustible material, so we need to be vigilant, as does the community. We need to be sensible.” 

Requests for comment from the office of the Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, had not been returned by the time of publication.