Com­mu­nity and coun­cil vow to keep fight­ing bu­reau­cracy

Mine shaft bet­ter than any­thing else

Mansfield Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By PAM ZIERK-MA­HONEY

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.

PHOTO: Tom Corneille

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.

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