City of Busselton extends community consultation on changes to its Bushfire Notice

City of Busselton extends community consultation on changes to its Bushfire Notice

The City of Busselton council has extended community consultation on proposed changes to its Bushfire Notice Review until May 31, 2021 to seek further community feedback.

In the proposal, properties located within the City of Busselton would fall into one of four categories ranging from an urban area to a rural bushfire prone area.

The proposal includes changes to requirements to remove or trim vegetation near houses, as well as increased requirements for boundary firebreaks in some rural-residential areas.

Properties located in urban bushfire prone areas would also be required to meet bushfire safety standards.

At its meeting last week, the council considered the City of Busselton Bushfire Notice Review as a matter of urgent business.

More than 700 survey responses have been received since consultation commenced on April 9, 2021 and has met significant community concern.

West Busselton resident Craig Sisson said the proposed changes would "decimate" not only semi-rural blocks but urban areas in Busselton, Dunsborough, Vasse and Yalyalup as well.

Mr Sisson lives close to the wetlands in West Busselton, where many residential properties had a small block with a backyard no bigger than five metres from the eaves to the back fence.

"Most people would have to take out all of their trees and gardens with shrubs more than half a metre high, it is insane," he said.

"The city's ad stated it was a Bushfire Notice it does not say anything about what it actually is; a fundamental change in the way people live their life and have their garden and homes."

Mr Sisson is the convener for the Busselton Dunsborough Environment Centre, saying the proposed changes would also destroy what's left of urban tree cover for the critically endangered western ringtail possums.

"The main areas where critically endangered western ringtail possums survive is in the urban areas of Busselton, Bunbury and Albany," he said.

"This proposal would destroy what's left, apart from the fact it would destroy everybody's amenity at their homes."

Eagle Bay Resident Association president Don Best said they only became aware of the proposal when some residents received an email from the city.

The residents arranged a community meeting last Sunday which was also attended by people in other areas who were concerned about the proposed changes.

"Everyone was pretty shocked about the what the potential impacts could be," he said.

"What they were proposing was to try and simplify the regulations, there are currently eight categories in the Bushfire Notice they send out with rates each year.

"They were trying to simplify that to four, really it just bundled people into two separate categories that did not have any provision or consideration for where you were located or your block size.

"If you have a rural residential block under the current rules, the city has an asset protection zone around your house.

"The city was trying to impose that on all the smaller urban type blocks.

"Under that category any block smaller than 4,000 sqm, the whole block would be an asset protection zone, which would mean that you could only have about 15 per cent tree foliage cover.

"That would decimate the whole area, every block would be neutered.

"Areas like Eagle Bay, which have an ambiance and amenity to them, would basically be turned into farm paddocks.

"The whole wildlife scenario would be devastating."

City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said the Bushfire Notice had not been reviewed for several years.

"Given changes to State level regulations, increased development and greater risk due to bushfire behaviour as a result of climate change, it is timely that it is reviewed," he said.

"Over the past decade, we've witnessed many serious bushfire incidents across the State and country.

"We need to balance environment and amenity with bushfire safety.

"There is no one solution to bushfire safety, it involves a range of different strategies, which together can help mitigate risk. To this end the Bushfire Notice is an important tool."

Council has decided to slow the consultation process down to allow the maximum number of people to have their say and to fully assess the feedback without the urgency of an impending 2021/2022 implementation date.

The Bushfire Notice survey has been extended for three weeks ending May 31, 2021.

Council further requested that a report be brought back to them regarding the potential for change to the Notice in the 2022/2023 year.

Further technical work and more community consultation, including a series of public information sessions, will occur before any final decisions are made.

People are invited to complete the Bushfire Notice Survey available on Yoursay Busselton yoursay.busselton.wa.gov.au/bushfire-notice-survey

Please register your expression of interest to attend a public information and discussion session by contacting angeline.dewson@busselton.wa.gov.au.