Community members weren’t happy with Australian Fire Danger Rating System’s regional data dictating the lake reserve to close more often.

Council endorses ‘imperfect’ Leschenaultia fire risk report

Mundaring council approved the report but says it's only the first step to better management of Lake Leschenaultia bushfire risks.
June 20, 2024
Guanhao Cheng

SHIRE of Mundaring has endorsed the actions in a Lake Leschenaultia bushfire risk report despite opposing deputations and the divided opinions of the bush fire advisory committee.

The council majority voted for the endorsement at the June 11 ordinary council meeting, with deputy shire President Trish Cook and councillor Prapti Mehta voting against the motion.

Chidlow volunteer bushfire management team captain Catriona McCarthy made a deputation to council against the motion to endorse the report.

“I’m representing the collective voices of the Chidlow volunteer bushfire management team and speaking in opposition of the Lake Leschenaultia report, and appeal for you not to endorse the implementation of the nine actions within the report,” she said.

“Our main concerns surrounding the nine recommendations is that they focus heavily on fuel reduction as the main mitigation strategy.

“As councillors, are you prepared to sign off a single focused report and make decisions to approve a flawed strategy that will potentially impact thousands of lives, not only of those attending the lake, but the residents of Chidlow that stem off Rosedale Road and only have one route to escape?”

The item was contested at the bush fire advisory meeting, being carried nine to seven, with the two attendant deputy chief bush fire control officers showing a difference in judgement.

Ms McCarthy was also present at the committee representing the Chidlow brigade.

In November 2023, the shire began limiting public access to Lake Leschenaultia when the fire danger was deemed ‘extreme’ or ‘catastrophic’, as reported in Lake Leschenaultia to close during extreme weather.

These pre-emptive closures were made in the interests of community safety.

The report recognised community members who enjoyed Lake Leschenaultia’s amenities had not received the pre-emptive closures well and saw the closures as being overly cautious.

This matter came to council in December, as reported in Lake Leschenaultia closure guidelines, and councillors decided the shire needed a more flexible approach when the regional danger ratings did not reflect local conditions.

Due to this, consultant agency Executive Risk Solutions was tasked by council to arrange a bushfire risk report.

The report aimed to find if the current fire danger rating system used was overly cautious, and whether Lake Leschenaultia could safely remain open despite generalised regional ratings advising otherwise.

To this end, the report outlined nine actions aiming to guide council decision making, update the Lake Leschenaultia emergency response plan from last year, add safety options, and ultimately limit future closures.

At the June 11 meeting, concerns were raised about how viable the mitigation strategies were, given the focus on fuel load (the amount of flammable material in a given area), and the controlled burning that would be needed to manage it.

Cr Cook said she was concerned about the report and foreshadowed an alternative motion to note the motion and not endorse if it didn’t get through.

“I think you’re right; I think it’s not perfect, and I think it kind of needs to be,” she said.

“It doesn’t sit well with me that the local Chidlow bushfire brigade doesn’t feel comfortable with it and they’re the main people that know that area the best and they have the best local knowledge.

“I don’t want to ruin the lake as well; it’s a beautiful environmental place and I don’t necessarily know if that will bring the balance and the environmental part of that hasn’t been addressed in the officer’s report.”

Councillor Doug Jeans said that in summary, even though he sympathised with Chidlow brigade’s concerns, the report was simply a first step in a process to localise data from the Bureau of Meteorology to better inform the closures of the lake.

“If the fire risks aren’t managed well, (Chidlow bushfire brigade are) the frontline,” he said.

“But I don’t believe that will ever happen because we don’t put our own fire people at risk.

“This is the first stage of getting a better understanding of how we can manage that site for the community.”

Privately owned, proudly independent local news service.

ALL IMAGES & WORDS © 2023 Echo Newspaper
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram