Local residents on Evans Street in Byron Bay, that backs onto the Arakwal national park, have raised concerns over the intended removal of approximately 40 melaleuca trees in the park and near their properties.
‘We have spent countless hours removing ute-loads of dumped rubbish and invasive weeds from the park and our immediate surrounds,’ said one resident David Hosking.
‘This included observing the natural inhabitants and the flora and fauna. Over three years we have observed and followed a family of two tawny frogmouths produce a single off spring each year in the melaleucas immediately in front of our property. Two families of butcherbirds whose nests have been rebuilt each year and a family of blue-faced honeyeaters. Not to mention the hundreds of lorikeets which appear on flowering time to gorge themselves on the nectar of the melaleucas trees.’
Significant risk of fire
Responding to their concerns local community protection officer Ian Cook joined residents yesterday to discuss their concerns.
Mr Cook highlighted the ‘significant risk on the interface’ between the park boundary and local properties in the area. The park boundary is an asset protection zone (APZ) and there is a legislative requirement that the National Parks and Wildlife Service(NPWS) have to protect the properties on the park boundary particularly in light of the current fires destroying homes in both NSW and Victoria.
He pointed out that there is a significant ‘transient population’ that includes people travelling and camping up the coast as well as the homeless who often light fires in the park as well as ‘almost every second home being a holiday let’ that increases the risk of fire and its potentially dangerous outcomes.
A spokesperson for the office of environment and heritage said that ‘The work is required to maintain the Asset Protection Zone, a crucial part of the fire management strategy for the park providing a buffer zone between the park and neighbouring properties.’
Looking for a compromise
While the residents acknowledged the need for some removal of trees to create a safety zone, clear access for fire trucks and canopy thinning to reduce fire risk they said they ‘were looking for a compromise’ and that the removal of all the trees ‘may be a bit drastic’.
They went on to highlight that the more recent buildings on the street complied to strict fire regulations and that part of the reason they had chosen to live at this location was that they wanted to be close to nature and help rebuild the natural environment and ecosystems.
Jenny Atkins, team leader ranger for the Tweed Byron area for NPWS has told Echonetdaily that Mr Cook and a ranger had spent afternoon reassessing the site and were currently making a final decision on the number of trees to be removed.
‘Residents are certainly getting their voice heard,’ said Ms Atkins.
‘We have been having an open dialogue and they will know by the end of tomorrow.’
During the session Mr Cook highlighted the importance of a bushfire survival plan with only one resident having thought about their plan.
‘It is amazing how many people don’t have them,’ he said.
Mr Cook showed residents photographic modelling that demonstrated the vulnerability of the houses next to the national park to fire and encouraged them all to put together a bushfire survival plan. Anyone in a fire prone area should put together a bush fire survival plan more information is available online.
‘OEH are responsible for protecting people and adjoining properties.’
Properties in areas of fire risk are also able to put a sign on their gate if they have a static water source on the property, like a swimming pool or dam, that could potentially be used by firefighters to fight fires you can find out more here.