SANDY Point, long recognised as an area of high fire risk, now officially has a Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP). It is the Sandy Point Community Centre, commissioned as an NSP by the Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan, in a ceremony last Friday.
It took a collaboration between the Victorian Government, emergency services agencies, South Gippsland Shire Council and the community to establish the centre as an NSP, and representatives of all of the above attended last week’s ceremony.
“Sandy Point is recognised as a high fire-risk area and we have worked tirelessly to ensure the community now has a place which will provide some protection in the event of a bushfire,” Mr Ryan said.
He said the area around the newly built community centre was determined the most appropriate place for an NSP by the CFA, and the government provided $550,000 towards its establishment.
“This is part of a $13 million commitment to assist local governments to establish shelter options, including NSPs, in some of the more difficult sites,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Coalition Government has so far established more than 260 Neighbourhood Safer Places across Victoria.”
Mark Potter, Gippsland Regional Director of the CFA, pointed out that a Neighbourhood Safer Place such as the Sandy Point Community Centre was just one of several options available to people facing the threat of bushfire. He encouraged the community to draw up bushfire survival plans and noted that a Neighbourhood Safer Place should be regarded as a Place of Last Resort and the best option on a day of high fire danger was to leave early.
Mr Ryan agreed, saying that even with the NSP in place, it was important for the community to remember that successful bushfire survival planning involved consideration of several different options. “Flexibility is the key to good bushfire survival planning and NSPs are just one of many options available,” he said.
“Sandy Point’s population can increase tenfold during the busy summer season with the influx of tourists keen to enjoy the magnificence of the region. The NSP provides a place of last resort for residents who are unable to leave the area early in the event of a fire, as well as tourists who may be unfamiliar with the area and unaware of local fire-risk conditions.”
Mr Ryan said the safest option is always to leave a high-risk bushfire area well before a bushfire or a fire front approaches.
“It is also vitally important to stay informed and use more than one source of information for fire warnings.
“Those living in or visiting high fire-risk areas should familiarise themselves with the CFA website, download the FireReady App, regularly check CFA’s Facebook page and Twitter, listen to local radio or ring the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667 to obtain all the latest information.”
On behalf of South Gippsland Shire Council, the mayor, Cr James Fawcett, thanked Mr Ryan, the State Government and the fire authorities.
“We hope we never have to use this place as a Neighbourhood Safer Place, but it is good to know that it is here,” he said.
TP TAYLOR RESERVE UPGRADE
While he was at Sandy Point, Mr Ryan had a further announcement to make – a government contribution of $133,000 from the Regional Growth Fund towards the TP Taylor Reserve Open Space Enhancement Project.
South Gippsland Shire Council will contribute $34,000 and the community the remaining $10,000 of the $177,000 project, which will see the installation of playground shade sails, a basketball half-court, a connecting pathway, barbeque rotunda, car park curbing and channelling, seating, a connecting pathway and landscaping.
The work will begin next February, at the end of the busy summer tourist season, and should be completed by the end of the year.
Dianne Cooper, president of the committee of management for the reserve, said the funding was very much appreciated. “It will turn this reserve into something the community can use,” she said, thanking Mr Ryan, Council and the shire’s grants officer, Penni Ellicott.
She said the community already makes good use of the community centre, which was completed just on twelve months ago. Many functions – from weddings to 21sts – have been held in the main room and many more are booked for coming months, including a wedding expo on January 19, and the consultation rooms are gradually being made use of.
“TP Taylor Reserve is a key gathering and recreational space for the Sandy Point community,” Mr Ryan said. “Those who visit TP Taylor Reserve can now look forward to improved amenities that will make for an ideal destination and a great day out for the whole family.
“This major upgrade will improve the usability of the reserve for locals and the many thousands of tourists to who visit the area, particularly in the summer months and weekends.
“Improving the reserve’s facilities will mean tourists and visitors will be more inclined to stay longer in Sandy Point, and in turn spend more money at local shops and businesses.”
Mr Ryan said the project formed part of the Recreational Master Plan for Sandy Point, which was developed in 2012 in collaboration with the South Gippsland Shire Council and resident groups.
“A project steering group will be formed by members of the TP Taylor Reserve Committee of Management, the Sandy Point Community Group and South Gippsland Shire Council staff to guide the implementation of the project,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said across the South Gippsland Shire, the Regional Growth Fund had so far provided almost $11 million to 29 projects worth more than $55 million. Those projects included:
- $115,000 for the $177,000 Korumburra Tourist Railway Track and Underpass Upgrade project;
- $2 million for the $2.9 million Great Southern Rail Trail (Foster to Welshpool) Extension; and
- $1.5 million for Burra Food’s $22 million Infant Formula Water Initiatives project in Korumburra.