Overgrown bushland on the former Heinz cannery site will be cleared before the start of summer, after a group of concerned residents raised their fears about it being a fire hazard risk to their homes, and potentially, the town’s CBD.
Twofold Court resident Jack Dickenson and a group of his neighbours told the Magnet last week that vegetation had been allowed to grow uncontrolled in the area, bounded by Cattle Bay Road, Fishermans Court, Flinders Street and Twofold Court, since the cannery closed in 1999.
Mr Dickenson said that despite writing letters to the Rural Fire Service, he had not received any response.
After enquiries from the Magnet, Bega Valley Rural Fire Service community safety officer Marty Webster said Mr Dickenson’s correspondence had been located in a disused letterbox in front of the Fire Control Centre, which has since been removed.
“The letter was lodged with the fire mitigation officer, and an inspection was scheduled [for last Wednesday],” Mr Webster said.
“The fire mitigation officer visited the site with the complainant and carried out an inspection.
“We’ve determined that there is a hazard present, and we’ve asked the owners to take action before the start of the summer bushfire season.”
Mr Webster said that if the land, now privately owned by an overseas investor, has not been cleared by that time, the RFS will carry out the work at the owner’s expense.
Mr Dickenson said he and his neighbours will feel much safer once the site has been cleared.
“[In its current state], all it needs is a spark and it’ll go up,” he said.
“I’m very pleased that it’s going to be done.
“On a windy day during the warmer months, I’ve been reluctant to leave the house.
“Bush fires here generally come from the north-west, so it’s right in the path of a fire front.”
Fellow local resident Pauline Mitchell has been writing to the RFS about the site since 2003, and says she is relieved at the news.
Several previous inspections were carried out in response to Mrs Mitchell’s letters, the last in December 2013, but the RFS found on each occasion that the level of threat was not significant enough for action to be taken.
“I believe in prevention rather than cure,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“So I’m very happy that it’s going to be cleared; I think it will make the area so much safer during summer.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of very happy people once it’s done.”
Mr Webster said the site had also been raised as an issue by several residents at a community consultation session in Eden last month, and that the RFS is happy to have worked with the community to address their concerns.
“Bega Valley Shire Council maintains an Asset Protection Zone above the area in question and this was widened in February this year,” Mr Webster said.
“The Bega Valley Bush Fire Risk Management Plan is currently under review and during recent community consultation sessions at Eden this area was flagged as a concern.
“The Bush Fire Management Committee is currently working through all such issues to assess the risk and assign appropriate treatments.”