Maps used by the Victorian Country Fire Authority to help residents avoid the devastation of another Black Saturday are years out of date and contain a raft of embarrassing errors, Crikey can reveal.

On several “Township Protection Plan” maps developed for 52 high-risk fire areas identified by the Brumby Government for this year’s bushfire season, the names of prominent landmarks are misspelled, drained dams erroneously appear and one beach is located kilometres from its actual location.

  • On the Blairgowrie Community Information Map, Koonya Beach is listed as facing Port Phillip Bay, more than five kilometres from its actual location on the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula near the Blairgowrie back beach.
  • On the Junortoun map, local sources have reported that non-existent bodies of water appear on the map, despite the dams having been drained (and the dam wall removed) as part of a recent rural subdivisions program. Dwellings less than three years old do not appear on the map at all.
  • On the Warrandyte map, Stiggants Reserve appears as “Stiggant Reserve” and the entry point to Andersons Creek Primary School, a possible refuge in the event of a devastating blaze, appears to be Mossy Creek Slope, rather than Drysdale Road. The school appears set back from the road it abuts.

Visitors to the CFA website are told to use the maps to develop their own personal Bushfire Survival Plans to sidestep trouble in the event of another horror summer. However, the maps contain a disclaimer that they are a “draft” and “subject to council approval”. Viewers are told to check the CFA website regularly to ensure they have the latest map.

However, some residents might be reluctant to do so — many maps, in PDF format, take up to one minute to load and repeatedly crashed Crikey‘s browser when we tried to access them.

The maps were produced remotely using GIS technology by the Melbourne-based firm Spatial Vision. Spatial Vision’s managing director Glenn Cockerton told Crikey this morning he was wholly dependent on data provided by Victorian government agencies, which is coordinated by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

“It’s the government’s data and there are formal processes that need to be followed to update it, which I would expect would now occur,” Cockerton said.

Cockerton confirmed that some data was up to five years old and that other maps including Melway sometimes contained fresher information due to direct site visits by cartographic staff.

The Brumby government has been in damage control this week over the lack of so-called “Neighbourhood Safer Places” in Bushfire-prone communities, more than six weeks after the start of the official fire season. It admitted this week that the places of last resort would not be established before the fire threat reaches its peak. Many maps say that the CFA is working together to identify and assess potential refuge locations, although they are currently not included.

A spokesperson for the Department of Sustainability and Environment defended the maps when contacted by Crikey:

“Over the last three years DSE has committed an additional $1 million of funding and resources which have resulted in almost a million edits to its mapping data as part of its commitment to constantly update and improve the quality of its maps.”

It said the Vicmap digital data was being “constantly updated.”

“DSE is working with CFA and local government to investigate these specific issues to ensure the most up-to-date information is provided in the CFA Community Information Maps.”

The department said it relied on “community contacts” and more formal processes to ensure its maps were up to date.

Can you find errors on your town’s CFA map? Email [email protected] and we’ll compile the data to assist the department.

Peter Fray

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