‘Absentee’ landowners causing fire hassles

Anne-Louise Lindner with Rodney Bird, Matthew Puddicombe and Clive Rickett from Darraweit Guim Fire Station. File Picture: Damjan Janevski.

Hundreds of repeat offenders are among people already put on notice as part of Macedon Ranges council’s annual sweep of fire-prone areas.

The council is about halfway through inspections of private land and has issued more than 470 fire prevention notices. A total of 750 notices were handed out last year.

Council community safety manager Anne- Louise Lindner told Star Weekly close to half of those already warned had received clean-up notices in previous years.

‘‘Quite a lot of them appear to be absentee landowners,’’ she said.

Notices are issued for properties deemed to be fire hazards. If the notice is not complied with in the specified timeframe, the council will carry out the works and bill the landowner, on top of issuing a $1517 fine.

Ms Lindner urged owners who had received a notice to act quickly.

‘‘Preventing fires is everyone’s responsibility and a well maintained property will help reduce the risk of fire to our community, including you and your neighbours,’’ she said.

The council recently prosecuted five landowners who failed to comply with notices issued last year. In each case, the magistrate fined the owners and ordered them to pay the council’s contractor as well as court costs.

Tough stance welcomed

Mountain group CFA spokesman Mike Dornau welcomed the council’s tough stance.

‘‘There are a lot of people who do the right thing, but there are a lot of people who don’t,’’ Mr Dornau said. ‘‘We’ve all got to do our bit and keep things clear.’’

Having attended a presentation made to CFA personnel last Thursday night, Mr Dornau said the council’s fire management team was ‘‘doing really excellent work’’.

‘‘They’ve been allocating specific areas to get property owners to cut fire breaks so that they become part of the defence system on particular roads. I think that’s a great move.”

About 1000 kilometres of council-managed roads are due to be slashed over coming weeks as the council steps up its own program.

Mr Dornau said recent cool weather was no reason to be complacent.

‘‘It can be hard for people living near the townships to comprehend, but we were out near Ashbourne the other day and up at Mount Macedon on Wednesday … you get into the bush and it’s crackling under your feet.”