Community and council vow to keep fighting bureaucracy
Mine shaft better than anything else
THE Woods Point community has vowed to keep fighting to retain its ‘place of safer refuge’ – the old mine adit.
At an open meeting of t he Woods Point and District Community Safety Committee held on January 29, residents were informed as to why the adit had been decommissioned.
Chairman of the committee, Tom Corneille, said residents were concerned the adit may be locked or rendered inaccessible as other dugouts had already been bulldozed.
Woods Point was burnt out in the 1939 Black Friday fires – with only one life lost from 750 residents at the time – and that was due to a heart attack.
Mr Corneille said residents were fearful there would be nowhere to hide if a fire, such as the Black Saturday fires, came roaring through their valley.
“It was felt by all those attending the meeting that the most important issue for residents was not what this refuge is called, but that it is open to all, and that tourists were aware of where it is and allow access for everyone,” Mr Corneille said.
“We are told that the present fire refuge signs are to be removed, but we may have our own signs, without the Mansfield Shire logo.”
Representing Victoria Police, Leading Senior Constable Ken Dwight said the memorandum of understanding between t he Mansfield Shire and the police had underpinned the status of the fire refuge.
The refuge was commissioned in 2006 after funds were committed by the shire to provide the necessary infrastructure to the adit, and Morning Star Gold Mine provided the labor and remaining funds for the project.
“We understand that Morning Star Gold’s insurers discussed the possibility of closing the adit because of liability issues, but the mining company considered the town’s safety was more important,” LSC Dwight said.
Margaret Martyn outlined the sequence of events which led to the council’s decision to decommission the fire refuge – ‘as the state (government) would provide no i ndemnity t o council from litigation surrounding the use as a designated fire refuge’.
This action occurred directly as a result of the Fire Services Commission document referring to fire refuges specifically as ‘buildings’.
Although Woods Point currently only has some 40 permanent residents, during peak holiday periods up to 600 campers inhabit various camping sites between Jamieson and Woods Point.
Residents have called on the Mansfield Shire Council to spell out what is to happen in the future.
In t he meantime t hey have vowed to keep using the adit, only if and when necessary, as there is no other safer place.
AT the January meeting of Mansfield Shire Council an eight point recommendation was passed to continue to advocate on behalf of the Woods Point community to retain the adit as a place of safer refuge.
Shire chief executive officer David Roff said last Thursday, council had had further discussions with the Fire Services Commissioner in an effort to retain this adit for the residents - explaining that the adit was in fact safer than any purpose built ‘building’.
Mr Roff said discussions would be ongoing until the matter was clarified.
In the Fire Services Commissioner’s policy statement for Community Fire Refuges (November 2013) it clearly states “A community fire refuge must have the following attributes:
it has been purpose-built OR modified by a State department or public body in accordance with Ministerial Direction No. 4 issued under the Project Development and Construction Management Act 1994.
Police state No 4 states: “The Fire Services Commissioner has policy responsibility for ensuring that all community fire refuges in Victoria are identified, constructed, operated and maintained consistent with law and policy”.
Mr Roff said council has put forward the argument that the Woods Point adit is in fact much safer than what is being proposed by the Commissioner.
ADIT TO SAFETY: The Woods Point mine shaft (adit) which was reinforced some years ago to become a place of community shelter in times of fire.