Fire sparks call for help

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JOE DAW­SON

A COM­MU­NITY en­vi­ron­men­tal group wants to en­gage with the wider neigh­bour­hood to avoid a rep­e­ti­tion of a ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’ act of van­dal­ism.

Up to 50 na­tive grass shrubs at Kerr Tay­lor Re­serve in San­dring­ham were de­lib­er­ately set alight on Satur­day evening in an in­ci­dent that could have eas­ily got out of con­trol had it not been for the swift ac­tion of a nearby res­i­dent.

Fire­fight­ers were called to the re­serve about 6pm to douse the blaz­ing bushes which line a drain feed­ing Meola Creek.

Three boys, one rid­ing a bi­cy­cle, were seen in the park min­utes be­fore the fire was dis­cov­ered.

Com­bined with the ef­fects of an­other Guy Fawkesre­lated flare-up the area has been much-abused in re­cent weeks – and it looks it.

The St Lukes En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety, which takes a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in Meola Creek and its sur­rounds, is keen to make sure the dam­age doesn’t con­tinue and the place is prop­erly re­spected by all in the fu­ture.

Over the years the so­ci­ety has planted hun­dreds of trees and plants in the neigh­bour­ing Roy Cle­ments Tree­way and ad­vo­cated for the con­struc­tion of a board­walk which has trans­formed the area into a pop­u­lar thor­ough­fare and link.

Spokes­woman Liz Walker says to have an im­por­tant com­mu­nity as­set wil­fully dam­aged is a shame.

But she hopes to con­vince the Eden-Al­bert Lo­cal Board to in­vest in ini­tia­tives aimed at fos­ter­ing a greater sense of com­mu­nity own­er­ship.

‘‘What we’d love to do is get buy-in and en­gage­ment with young kids,’’ she says.

‘‘We’d really love to have peo­ple from the wider area en­gaged and pro­duc­tive and help­ing us with plant­ing – own­ing it if you like.’’

The land is owned by Mt Al­bert Gram­mar which Ms Walker says is ‘‘very gen­er­ous’’ in shar­ing it with the com­mu­nity.

‘‘But id­iots like this jeop­ar­dise that and cause fear. It’s a very im­por­tant con­nec­tor.’’

It was lucky the fire was not con­sid­er­ably worse.

‘‘It could have ex­panded up to the apart­ments.

‘‘The fire­man said if it got hold of the poplars they would have had a prob­lem.

‘‘I don’t think th­ese kids were think­ing. They’re not aware of the reper­cus­sions be­ing phys­i­cally threat­en­ing and to the wider com­mu­nity if th­ese things keep hap­pen­ing. We want the kids help­ing, not cre­at­ing fear and di­vi­sion within this com­mu­nity.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Com­mu­nity en­gage­ment: St Lukes En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety mem­ber Liz Walker wants the wider com­mu­nity to take ‘‘own­er­ship’’ of the area’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and care for it, rather than de­stroy it.

Lucky es­cape: If the fire had got hold of poplar trees the blaze could have been much worse.

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