A Hilldene war veteran is facing an estimated $250,000 bill to remove old tyres from his property.
Ron Fry, 56, has been issued with a Notice of Compliance by the Environmental Protection Authority to remove more than 40,000 tyres, which it deems a fire risk.
After building a hobby dirt bike track on his property, Mr Fry has become the victim of illegal tyre-dumping. Now, he is looking at costs of about $250,000 to remove the tyres, a cost he cannot afford.
The story began in the early 2000s when Mr Fry, a long-time military history and vehicle enthusiast, invited colleagues and friends from Puckapunyal to check out his latest projects at his 16-hectare (40-acre) property.
The group, which shared Mr Fry’s passion for off-road dirt bike riding, began creating an off-road track for restored military vehicles and bikes using second-hand tyres to mark out the track.
As the track became more established, Mr Fry began to find piles of tyres dumped in his front paddock.
After a visit from Mitchell Shire Council, Mr Fry became aware the track was not permissible and began dismantling it.
In 2007, Mr Fry was posted to Robinson Barracks near Darwin for three years and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan for nine months. He doesn’t know what happened during those three years, but upon returning home he found an ‘uncountable’ number of tyres on his property.
“I contacted the Environmental Protection Authority to explain and ask for assistance to dispose of these tyres,” Mr Fry said.
“They came out, took photos, said they could most likely provide some sort of assistance, but then I did not hear from them again.”
That is until June 24, 2021, when officers attended his property for inspection and issued him with a Notice of Compliance.
Since then, the EPA has conducted multiple visits, the most recent last month.
The EPA estimates the number of tyres to be more than 40,000.
It said large volumes of tyres presented a fire risk, as well as a risk to the environment and community, and must be removed.
“While we appreciate the volume of tyres was unexpected, EPA must still take every action to manage this potential fire risk that could impact surrounding community and the nearby forest," the EPA said in a statement. “In consideration of the highly unusual circumstances faced by the landowner, EPA has made multiple visits to the site during an extended period of time, offering assistance to the landowner, who has ultimate accountability in this case, to find a manageable way to reduce the tyre stockpile.
“This has included approaching organisations on his behalf requesting assistance or funding.
“Despite these efforts, there has been no improvement in the status of the stockpile and it continues to present a risk under our environment protection framework criteria.”
However, blindsided by the exorbitant price of removing the tyres, Mr Fry said there was no viable option for removal.
He has tried approaching ex-service organisations, car racing and sporting clubs and a number of businesses in Victoria that recycle tyres, none of which can assist.
One business even confirmed the $250,000 cost involved in moving them.
Mr Fry said that at the time of acquiring the original tyres for the track, a number of people had told him he would be able to get something back for them when disposing of them.
“Anyone who says that you can sell tyres to recycling plants either doesn’t know, like me, or they are lying,” he said.
Suffering from physical injuries and PTSD from his 22 years of military service, which included multiple deployments to Afghanistan and East Timor, Mr Fry feels unable to cope with the financial stress of needing to dispose of the tyres.
“This is my predicament that continually keeps me awake at night with stress, anxiety and depression, and thoughts of 'what should I do?'” he said.
The EPA said it had no option but to pursue further action to address the fire risk posed by the excessive number of tyres.
“The safety of the community must come first and EPA is acting appropriately in its role as an independent regulator,” it said.