New zoning increases bushfire risk for residents

KATHY COWLEY, FOKE PRESIDENT

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 Ku-ring-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?

  1. 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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