Visitor influx caues granville harbour big growing pains

24 September 2016

published by http://www.news.com.au


Australia —  THE remote shack community of Granville Harbour is banding together to try to establish a local fire brigade as the number of campers who come to Tasmania’s wild West Coast – and their associated fires – continues to grow.

The isolated community of about 50 properties and 30 permanent residents is inundated by thousands of four-wheel drivers, fishermen and campers every summer.

The influx into Granville Harbour starts in earnest at the start of the crayfish season in late November.

The numbers coming have increased since other wild areas in the Tarkine, including the Sandy Cape track, have been closed off to recreational vehicles.

“Since the slowdown at Sandy Cape, the population of campers on the beach in summer has tripled,” a resident told emergency personnel at a fire mitigation meeting at Granville Harbour this week.

“The possibility of campfires getting away has also tripled.”

There is no mobile-phone coverage in the community and it takes about 35 minutes for emergency services vehicles, such as ambulances and fire resources, to travel from Zeehan.

Ian Wotherspoon, of the Granville Harbour Community Coast Care Group, said it would be comforting to know the town had some local firefighting resources on hand, especially in the busy summer months and in light of the bushfire emergency on the West Coast last summer.

The meeting heard better signage was also needed to alert visitors to total fire bans.

Last season, two campers at Strahan who were fined for lighting fires on total fire ban days said they had not heard there was a statewide ban in place.

The community has asked the Parks and Wildlife Service to investigate what fire breaks could be put in to protect the smattering of properties from wildfire.

While the Parks and Wildlife Service has a $28 million fuel-reduction burn fund to conduct prescribed burning before summer hits, much of the vegetation around Granville Harbour is not suitable for this kind of mitigation measure. The situation is complicated by the fact that some flora, for example the Melaleuca pustulata or warty paperbark, is a threatened species and needs authorisation to be cleared.

The possibility of camp fires getting away ahs also tripled.

The community has been encouraged to identity a safe place for people to gather in the face of a bushfire.

Granville Farm, which has open cattle-grazing paddocks, is expected to be chosen.

“Back in the early 1990s, there was talk about putting in fire breaks from the farm down to the water but they did eventuate,” Royce Smith, of Granville Farm, said at the meeting.

“We are worried about the upcoming fire season.

“Cattle used to graze right along the beach. Now the growth is metres high.”

Other West Coast shack communities came underdirect threat last bushfire season.

There were more than 40 bushfires burning on Tasmania’s West Coast.

In January, residents and campers were evacuated from Arthur River, Couta Rocks and Temma.

About a dozen people were forced to take shelter on a beach at Sarah Anne Rocks, just south of Arthur River.

The West Coast Council has urged the community to rally a band of volunteers and then put a submission to the Tasmania Fire Service to see if a bridge would be supported.

Tasmania Fire Service Deputy Chief Officer Gavin Freeman said the service had brigades positioned across the state according to risk.

Mr Freeman said the fire service regularly reviewed its incident data to ensurebrigades were positioned appropriately.

“During bushfire season, we continue to monitor where our risk is located,” he said.

“If the risk shifts, we are able to reposition resources to address that risk.

“There are many measures available to us and setting up a new brigade is not always an appropriate solution.”

He said the brigade’s award-winning “Bushfire Ready Neighbourhoods” program worked well with communities deemed to be at risk.

This helped communities “to build resilience, know their own bushfire risk, and helps residents in bushfire-prone areas help themselves by preparing their properties in the event of a fire”.