From the Nillumbik Council website: “Nillumbik is called the Green Wedge Shire and we are known as the ‘lungs’ of Melbourne. Our beautiful open spaces and natural treed environment together with our friendly villages, including Eltham, Diamond Creek, Hurstbridge and St Andrews add to the lifestyle of the Shire.”

On Tuesday 24 February Nillumbik Council grappled with the bushfire aftermath
Transcript typed from public radio broadcast from Plenty Valley 88.6FM

Cr. Brock: Thank you Mr. Mayor. In the time that I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks in talking with um the community and the volunteers, the CFA and so on there has been a lot of um genuine concern and confusion conveyed to me about what measures they can take to protect themselves in the coming six to eight weeks of the fire season and I believe that it is important that we address those issues to give them some avenues which they can um protect their lives and their property. The purpose of this motion is to do exactly that, is to give them avenues which will um uh allow them in the case of um their own general protection its quite clear if they, if they have a situation where I had a person in Panton Hill called me about an adjoining Cou… public road to their property which had a lot of litter and uh trees and so on in it then the avenue they have is the

Municipal Fire Prevention Officer to go and then um instruct Council or use a fire prevention notice to um instruct Council to clear that road. So the idea is to give people avenues right now to do these things. … Interjections from gallery … I don’t want to get into a debate about the other motions which are being mentioned here um but it’s very difficult when one is being thrown things from the side. However, if, if a um, if the communities out there they’re upset about what’s happened um and they’d like to know immediately what they can do if we’ve got this coming Friday we’ve got an issue happening which is a north wind coming through on a hot temperature I think they need guidance OK, and I think we need to say what you can do right now and that’s the purpose of this um this motion. Thank you.

Cr. Bendtsen: Thank you Cr. Brock. Cr. Chapple do you wish to speak?

Cr. Chapple: Thank you Mr. Mayor. Um, I’m pleased to support the motion. I think the motion provides necessary recognition for the impact of Black Saturday on our community and sets a considered path forward. It acknowledges the impact this event has had on our community. Everyone has been touched in some way. The motion records our thanks to the emergency services, shire staff, volunteers and other agencies who have performed so well. It is also important that the community understand that Council is fully committed to actions that will help protect the community in future. Those actions will be developed with other authorities in particular the Royal Commission over time. The Council is also committed to review its own policies at an early stage where possible and appropriate. It will be a long time til we get all the answers. Probably this motion is a good place to start.

Cr. Bendtsen: Thank you Cr. Chapple. Any other Councillor wish to speak to the motion? No? Cr. Young.

Cr. Young: Yeah. I’m happy to support this Notice of Motion. Uh, like I said in my little speech before um we have to be considered, we can’t make policy decisions on the run, um the sorts of things that were in that motion are practical things we can hang our hat on right now, practical um recommendations um information and education outlets where people can uh, uh, form views and get active around their own property. Um, I think it’s an absolutely appropriate response and um yeah and we get into some very serious considerations of policy (inaudible) as soon as possible at a later date.

Cr. Bendtsen: Thank you. Any other Councillors wish to speak? Cr. Clarkson.

Cr. Clarkson: Thank you Mr. Mayor. I have to apologise for my opinion because it’s different to everybody else. Um I believe this is bureaucratic uh double speak. 210 people dead and still this Council refuses to take action.

With this motion you are saying let’s form a committee. Where are the duty of care to residents? This is just empty words and does not pose any action. Many of these points have been or could be covered in a media release. They are certainly not Supplementary and Urgent Business.

I have not in the past, and will not align myself with the policies, the bad policies of the previous Councils. We can be part of the problem we can be part of the solution or we can be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. That is why I stood for Council. Let’s clean up this mess.

This motion is just words. Full of motherhood statements. I feel I may be on my own again. The Nillumbik Planning Scheme is so complex and complicated that even the planning officers and the fire prevention officer must refer to these documents first. They must establish the location of the property and any overlays and any overlays that may pertain to that particular property. Number 3.3 dot point 2 refers to the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer and the CFA Act 1958. The Municipal Fire Prevention Officer under the Act, CFA Act has always had these powers and you suggesting, are you suggesting that we should tell him to do his job thus inferring that he has been negligent in his role and that senior staff have also been negligent in their role in their supervision of this officer. (4) Again, no action. Number 4 dot point 1, this equals time, money and no action now. Number 4 dot point 2, No action now. In brief, this is no action now.

Under normal circumstances this supposed Supplementary and Urgent business would appear on the agenda item as No. 15. Nothing in this Supplementary and Urgent business calls for any immediate action or change. I propose a Notice of Motion, I proposed the Notice of Motion last Tuesday, one week ago, which appears under Item 13 Notices of Motion. My Notice of Motion Item 13.006/09 which calls for the Council to ask the relevant Minister to urgently suspend laws and clauses such as 52.17 Native Vegetation and others to allow residents to undertake bona fide fire protection clearance works without the requirement to obtain a permit and without the fear of prosecution. Let’s do something that shows leadership, is lawful and can make a difference now. The Minister is the only person who has the authority to suspend laws immediately and he should do, and he should do in these circumstances. My notice of motion clearly does this. It calls for action now … applause from gallery … hear, hear.

Cr. Bendtsen: Thank you Cr. Clarkson. Any other speakers? No. I’d like to say a few words as well. Um, the urgency in this motion comes out of a lot of questions that we are being asked as we go around to the community meetings. There is confusion and a lack of clarity over what people can and cannot do on their property to protect their properties in the event of, to protect them from fire, and I’m speaking of course of those who have not had the fire go through their properties but they’ve seen them come close to them. So the urgency in the motion is to get information out. The Council is instructing the administration to get information out as quickly as possible to communities in our rural areas and also to inform them of the avenue that is available under the present policies. To inform them that actions can in fact be taken today … interjection … inaudible … is nothing …

Cr. Bendtsen: .. and … interjections … how dare you, this is a parody, an absolute parody. People have died. D-I-E-D. I happen to live in an area that is as dry as a bone.

Cr. Bendtsen: I repeat …  interjector continues … there is nothing. I am a personal private resident. I’ve already put in fire resistant shutters

Cr. Bendtsen: This is not a debate with the gallery … interjector continues … toughened glass. I have cleared everything that I am allowed to and there is nothing more that I can do or that anybody else can do

Cr. Bendtsen: Look I’m sorry. I’m sorry … interjector … until something changes…

Cr. Young: A question. A question. Mr. Mayor.

Cr. Bendtsen : Cr. Young

Cr. Young: A question Mr. Mayor. Is it appropriate that we listen to interjector … excuse me ladies and gentlemen apart from Cr. Clarkson there is not inaudible here worth listening to and I would say to everyone who’s sitting here listening quietly, being law abiding,

Cr. Bendtsen: Look I’m sorry. Could you please … Thank you. That’s enough … interjector … oh yes. It is enough and I’m leaving … applause and cheers from gallery.

Cr. Bendtsen: Cr. Young. Question.

Cr. Young: Sorry, there was a mosquito. I was just trying to hit it. Um now the questions are (inaudible) now. The disruptions quietened down.

Cr. Bendtsen: Thank you. Well we’ll go to the vote. Those in favour of the motion … Sorry right of reply. Cr. Brock do you wish to have your right of reply. OK. We’ll go to the vote. Those councillors in favour? Against? That’s carried.

Cr. Clarkson: Division

Cr. Bendtsen. Cr. Clarkson has called a division. Uh, could the councillors in favour please raise your hands again? And um, Cr. Young, Cr. Brock, Cr. King, Cr. Coleman, Cr. Chapple, Cr. Bendtsen in favour . Cr. Clarkson against, against. That’s carried.