IT IS ‘A Place of Last Resort’ and should not be confused with an evacuation centre or refuge. That is the stern warning from South Gippsland Shire Council regarding the sole designated ‘Neighbourhood Safer Place’ in the shire, the Sandy Point Community Centre.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Bushfire Response Kim Wells is expected to officially open the designated Neighbourhood Safer Place – Place of Last Resort (NSP-PLR) next month.
In the meantime, South Gippsland Shire Council is distributing brochures to all Sandy Point ratepayers – permanent residents and the many holiday home owners – explaining the function of a NSP-PLR while emphasising the importance of residents leaving early and having their own fire plan in place.
Following the Black Saturday fires in 2009, Sandy Point was one of 52 towns across Victoria identified by the government as being most at risk of bushfire and most in need of a NSP-PLR. Within South Gippsland Shire, Waratah Bay, Walkerville and Venus Bay were also identified, but after a lengthy period of assessments carried out by the CFA, the newly constructed community centre at Sandy Point was the only site identified as having potential as a NSP-PLR.
As the brochure explains, Places of Last Resort are identified buildings or spaces within the community that may afford some protection from radiant heat, the biggest killer during bushfire. They are a place of last resort in emergencies only. Places of Last Resort are not designed to replace a personal bushfire survival plan.
Going to a Place of Last Resort is an option when other plans have failed.
- Places of Last Resort are not an alternative to leave early or stay and actively defend your property.
- They are not inherently safe places during a bushfire.
- Many houses will provide more effective protection than Places of Last Resort.
- Travelling to a Place of Last Resort may be dangerous. Traffic congestion, fire activity, heavy smoke, accidents or fallen trees may block the route there.
- There is no guarantee that you will not be injured or killed by fire or radiant heat when travelling to or sheltering at a Place of Last Resort.
- While emergency services will make every effort to protect people sheltering at Places of Last Resort, there is no guarantee that emergency services will be present.
- There will be no provision for pets.
- There will generally be limited parking. Large numbers of vehicles may further compromise what little protection the area affords.
- No amenities (e.g. food, drinks and toilets) should be expected.
The brochure further advises that the Sandy Point Community Centre is not open 24 hours a day. Access to the Centre as a Place of Last Resort is only possible when activated as part of an emergency. Notification of activation will be provided through the following means:
- ABC Radio will broadcast the key code of the key safe located near the front door of the building;
- SMS Text notifications;
- Sign located above key safe, with an emergency contact number.
When the shire’s Director Community Services, Jan Martin, briefed Council on the NSP-PLR last Wednesday, she emphasised that ideally people should have their own fire plan in place and plan to leave early.
Cr Mohya Davies pointed out that past experience had shown that relying on telecommunications at Sandy Point during the peak summer tourist season, let alone during a bushfire, was problematic. “This is one thing Council can advocate for – improved telecommunications,” she said.
GREEN WASTE FEE AMNESTY
South Gippsland Shire Council is encouraging all property owners at Sandy Point and elsewhere in the shire to ensure that their properties are ready and maintained for the fire season. Owners are reminded that there will be an amnesty period for green waste fees from Saturday November 2 through to the end of December. To assist residents to reduce fire risk on their properties, no fees will be charged for the disposal of green waste at transfer stations during this period.
WALKERVILLE AND VENUS BAY
With no designated NSP-PLR in their townships, the communities of Walkerville and Venus Bay-Tarwin Lower took up a CFA offer to test the value of community-led planning for the advent of fire or other threats. Both communities, along with Koonwarra, have developed Disaster Risk Reduction Action Plans. As part of this, they will shortly hold free community get-togethers.
Walkerville will hold a community get-together from 10am on Saturday November 2 at the CFA shed on the corner of Panoramic Drive and Grevillia Street in Promontory View Estate. There will be a range of speakers talking about fire safety and fire behaviour, along with a sausage sizzle and a burn table demonstration.
Another free community get-together, ‘Staying safe in Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower,’ will be held from 11am on Monday November 4 in the CFA shed at Tarwin Lower (next to the tennis courts).