New zon­ing in­creases bush­fire risk for residents

Monthly Chronicle - - Village Voice -

Many of us watched the re­cent wild­fire events across Cal­i­for­nia un­fold late last year, as well as the wild­fires in the last Euro­pean summer in Por­tu­gal and Spain, with their tragic sta­tis­tics of loss of life and property.

Here in Ku-ring-gai the past memories of the fa­tal wild­fires in 1994 and 20011 to 2012 are still vivid for many residents. Our mu­nic­i­pal­ity is both blessed and cursed with close prox­im­ity to nat­u­ral bush, forests on steep dry slopes ris­ing out of Na­tional Parks and the bush­fire hazard ob­vi­ous to all but the most selec­tive of agen­das.

Since 21 Novem­ber 2002 the hazard on our doorstep is mapped, cer­ti­fied by the RFS Com­mis­sioner and Gazetted by NSW Gov­ern­ment. The Bush­fire Evac­u­a­tion Risk in Ku-ring-gai was also iden­ti­fied, mapped, cer­ti­fied and gazetted from 2002 pur­suant to the SEPP Se­niors Living for Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties, Ru­ral Fire Act and the EP&A Act.

Alarm­ingly, it came as a shock to many in Ku-ring-gai when this NSW Gov­ern­ment ap­peared to ig­nore their duty of care to the residents of the 13 ar­eas of com­bined Bush­fire Hazard with Bush­fire Evac­u­a­tion Risk, and went ahead with their ap­par­ent pri­or­ity of in­creas­ing both den­sity and pop­u­la­tion.

Min­is­ter An­thony Roberts has added these pre­vi­ously pro­tected ar­eas in Kur­ing-gai to the KLEP, re­zon­ing them for the main part to En­vi­ron­men­tal Living 4. This new zon­ing, gazetted at the end of Jan­uary 2018, per­mits the ad­di­tion of sec­ondary dwellings on ex­ist­ing de­vel­oped blocks in ar­eas of evac­u­a­tion risk thereby po­ten­tially in­creas­ing den­sity across these ar­eas. These 13 ar­eas all have in com­mon, mostly a sin­gle road [vi­able in bush­fire] ser­vic­ing both emer­gency ve­hi­cles into the area with the same sin­gle road pro­vid­ing egress to evac­u­at­ing residents.

Add to this po­ten­tially dis­as­trous mix of two op­pos­ing flows of traf­fic, the pre­dictable com­pro­mised to nil vis­i­bil­ity in bush­fire, com­bined with the ex­pected speed of wild­fire due to slope and hazard prox­im­ity, and the prospect of fa­tal­i­ties be­comes dis­tinctly fore­see­able.

His­tor­i­cally many fa­tal­i­ties oc­cur from late evac­u­a­tion on com­pro­mised evac­u­a­tion routes.

All these facts make the Gov­ern­ment’s planning de­ci­sion to al­low for in­creased den­sity re­sult­ing in over­pop­u­la­tion and more ve­hi­cles to evac­u­ate on roads, in ar­eas of gazetted com­pro­mised evac­u­a­tion risk even more sur­pris­ing.

It surely must raise the fol­low­ing sim­ple ques­tions in this elec­torate: 1. If the au­thor­i­ties can­not guar­an­tee safe evac­u­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing pop­u­la­tion in wild­fire con­di­tions, why would they po­ten­tially in­crease the den­sity, pop­u­la­tion and num­ber of ve­hi­cles to be evac­u­ated? 2. Why would a dis­tinct lack of sup­port in writ­ing, for in­creased den­sity from both the Po­lice and the Fire Au­thor­i­ties, RFS, to both the lo­cal Coun­cil and the De­part­ment of Planning NSW be ruth­lessly dis­re­garded?

3. Is the Gov­ern­ment, the Lib­eral Party and the Greater Syd­ney Com­mis­sion so com­mit­ted to end­less pop­u­la­tion growth us­ing the pre­text of Af­ford­able Hous­ing, that in­creased den­sity is their only ob­jec­tive? Has this ob­jec­tive it­self been al­lowed to over­ride ex­ist­ing gov­ern­ment gazettes and all other con­sid­er­a­tions and warn­ings?

These are le­git­i­mate ques­tions for in­di­vid­u­als to raise in the pub­lic in­ter­est. Those with le­gal back­grounds may feel a

ne­ces­sity to think about rel­e­vant neg­li­gence and other li­a­bil­ity is­sues that may af­fect fu­ture sur­vivors of bush­fire in Ku-ring-gai.

It is es­sen­tial for the preser­va­tion of life in the next bush­fire event, as there surely will be one, that we keep the pres­sure on our MPs and Min­is­ter Roberts to have this re­zon­ing over­turned! Please write, email and con­front your MPs about what can only be seen as an act of the high­est ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity!

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