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Representing rural residents in Banjup, Jandakot, and Treeby


Bush Fire Risk Plan Submission by BRG

Posted by Ian Thurston on January 27, 2015 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

We made our submission about the proposed Bush Fire Risk Management Plan to the City of Cockburn on 5 January 2015. You can download it here.

In summary, we said:

The Banjup Residents Group is not able to support the proposed Bushfire Risk Management Plan. Our main concerns are:

  •  No action plan for extreme risks to be treated urgently
  •  Extreme risks submerged in complex spreadsheets
  •  Misrepresentation of DFES ‘Visual Fuel Guide’
  •  Complacency in the face of Extreme fire risks
  •  Documents are not meaningful to average ratepayer

We propose that quantified and scheduled plans be prepared for the urgent reduction of Extreme and Very High fire risks in Cockburn’s reserves. These risks could eventuate and kill people, as has happens elsewhere in Australia, sadly almost every year.

By the City’s own admission in the BRMP, the risks to our lives and properties in Banjup is Extreme. In the 11 months since the catastrophic fire in Banjup, the City of Cockburn has done nothing to reduce the fuel loads in Banjup’s reserves. This complacency is of grave concern to us.


You can download Cockburn's documents from here

Bush Fire Ruins Banjup House

Posted by Ian Thurston on January 24, 2015 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

On Tuesday 20 January Banjup was again victim to another bush fire, this time starting from an alleged stolen car hitting a tree on Gibbs Road and being set alight. The fire spread quickly through trees and a vacant block and embers from the fire fell into an air conditioner causing a house on Beenyup Road to become ablaze. Thankfully the owner of the house was on his way home and noticed the fire, alerted his sleeping family, and evacuated them from the house.

The firefighters saved several rooms however the boys’ bedroom, including their clothes, beds and toys, were reduced to ashes. The rest of the house was severely damaged by the smoke and the owners, Kim and Jenni Cameron, believe it will need to be demolished. The fire caused an estimated damage bill of $250,000.

The Camerons are overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and neighbours in Banjup. They are very, very grateful for all of the offers of help and donations from so many in the local community.

The Banjup Residents Group will arrange a donation drive to help the Cameron family get back on its feet. We will be collecting items for donation at our AGM on the 8 March. Suggest items include new or good quality used children’s clothes (boys aged 4 and 8), aged appropriate toys/books, bed linen, bedroom furniture etc.


Banjup Street Meet & BBQ

Posted by Ian Thurston on April 28, 2014 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The City of Cockburn and Jandakot Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades are hosting a street meet and BBQ with residents at the Banjup Hall, Oxley Road, Banjup

The event starts at 10:00AM, Saturday 3rd of May and will have presentations from local fire fighters, DFES Bush Fire Officers and the City on bush fire mitigation and preparedness. All residents are welcome to attend and the event is free of charge


Cockburn Declines to Help Banjup after Fire

Posted by Ian Thurston on April 6, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (2)

Following the biggest civil emergency in Cockburn in many years, we asked the City of Cockburn at our AGM on 23 February to provide some support to those residents affected by the Banjup fire of 3 February. We asked for support on 8 initiatives. Cockburn recently replied to our request and either declined or fudged its reply to all of them. You can download our letter to Cockburn here and their reply to us here.

Cockburn’s attitude towards Banjup residents has been disappointing. At no time at public meetings has the Mayor or staff expressed any sympathy for the 60 or so Banjup families whose properties were devastated by the fire. They have repeatedly praised the efforts of the fire crews, as we have (see our letter to the Brigade here), and rightly so but Cockburn’s attitude towards Banjup residents has been peculiar, to say the least.

Members who attended the AGM will recall the strange attitude of the Mayor towards our requests. Members will also recall that Cockburn’s Chief Bush Fire Control Officer sought to sour relations between Banjup residents and the Volunteer Fire Brigade.


We asked Cockburn to do these things:

1.    and 2. Implement the recommendations of the inquiry into the 2011 Perth Hills Bush Fires

Cockburn has done little in the 2 years since the review was published. They say that they will implement them all by the end of 2014. Their detailed responses show little evidence of resources being assigned or timelines set. They are vague about hazard reduction burns – one of the key recommendations.

They say that Banjup residents will be consulted on the implementation but no timelines or consultation mechanisms have been provided.

3.    Have Banjup on the Bush Fire Reference Group

Cockburn refuses to have those who will implement the hazard reduction and mitigation measures on their properties on the council group that provides advice to the Council. The members of the Reference Group are drawn from the Volunteer Fire Brigades only and none of those nominated reside on Banjup properties.

It is notable that other Reference Groups convened by Cockburn include representatives from their relevant communities. There are 12 children on the Children’s Reference Group, for example.

Cockburn's Bush Fire Reference Group is currently considering recommendations to change fire permit rules again and to have a 5 metre fire break around all buildings - including houses. We shall shortly email you more on the matter. These recommendations alone demonstrate why Banjup residents should be represented on that Reference Group.

4.    Advise How to Restore Woodland

Cockburn has provided the BRG with 2 pages of information. There is no commitment from Cockburn that they will mail those 2 pages to any Banjup residents, least of all those affected by the fire. Clearly, Cockburn expects the BRG to disseminate the information but we have no record of which residents were affected. We asked Cockburn to assist in contacting those residents but they have declined to do so.

5.    Extend the Biodiversity Grant Budget to Cover the Needs of those Impacted by the Fire

Cockburn has declined to do so. This financial year’s budget of $40,000 has already been allocated, much of it to Banjup residents

We asked if grant applications could be brought forward from October to June and funding made available in July rather than January in time to fund the spraying of veldt grass this coming August. Cockburn declined.

6.    Negotiate Bulk Rates for Veldt Grass Spraying

We asked if Cockburn would facilitate fire affected landowners getting preferential rates from its contractors and suppliers for the expensive herbicide Fusilade (retails at over $100 per litre and 4 litres needed per hectare). Cockburn declined.

7.    Negotiate Bulk Rates from Tubestock Nurseries

We asked if Cockburn would facilitate fire affected landowners getting preferential rates from its suppliers for tubestock trees and shrubs. Cockburn declined.

8.    Provide Counselling to Those Impacted by the Fire

Cockburn’s Support Services Team:

“provides counselling, information, advocacy, options and referrals to individuals living in the City Cockburn. Over the past year more than 785 individuals in total were assisted by these services.” – Cockburn Annual Report 2013

None of these services was offered by Cockburn to Banjup residents. Instead, we were directed to the State Department of Families.


Cockburn has made no alternative offers of assistance to those affected by the fire.

Bunnings has offered more support to Banjup residents than has the City of Cockburn.


It seems, then, that we shall have to rely on our own resources.


The BRG Committee hopes to negotiate bulk rates to assist in buying:

•    Fluazifop, Haloxyfop, or Quizalofop for the eradication of veldt grass in July / August

•    Tubestock native trees and shrubs for replanting fire devastated areas

Could any member who can facilitate such bulk rates please make contact with the BRG Secretary at [email protected] ?  A BRG member did offer at the AGM but we do not have his name.

Could all members who would like to take advantage of any bulk rates the BRG can negotiate also contact the BRG Secretary at [email protected] ?




5 Metre Rule Struck Out by Cockburn Council

Posted by Ian Thurston on September 12, 2013 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Banjup Residents applaud Cockburn council’s decision on 12 September to strike out the contentious ‘5 metre’ rule from this year’s Fire Control Order. The rule required the removal of “all forms of vegetation both living and dead” within 5 metres of a shed or outbuilding. This could have seen the destruction of up to 20 hectares of native bushland on Banjup’s 400 properties.

Cllr Steve Portelli spoke energetically in support of striking out the 5 metre rule and he carried 5 other councillors with him at the vote, for which Banjup residents are grateful.

Sadly, Councillor Lee-Anne Smith, one of our East Ward councillors, spoke strongly in favour of keeping the 5 metre rule. She had rammed the ill conceived and poorly drafted rule through council in July, pretending that it had been subject to ‘community consultation’. Cllr Smith had spoken earlier at the council meeting on an unrelated matter concerning another ward about the importance of listening to ratepayers and consulting with them. However, she was against extending the same respect to ratepayers in Banjup, in the ward that she represents.

Cllr Smith has shown herself to be no friend of her electors. Many will recall her contempt for those who hold views different from her when in February she labelled our Vice President a “f..kwit”.



5 Metre Clearance Around Sheds Is Unnecessary and Illogical

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 7, 2013 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (2)

We fully expect that in the course of inspecting the perimeter fire breaks of 400 Banjup properties, the council Rangers will now inspect the surrounds of each property’s sheds and outbuildings to ensure compliance with the new Fire Control Order. Apart from the extra time and cost involved for the City, we must ask what is the benefit to be gained?

  1. Why must sheds, stables, and like have a 5 metre clearance around them while a house, where people live, can be surrounded by plants, trees, dry vegetation, debris, and other flammable material? Why is the City imposing a higher standard of supposed safety on an outbuilding than on a dwelling? There is a contradiction here that defies logic to explain.
  2. The new Fire Control Order speaks of clearance of “all dry vegetation, debris, and flammable material”. This implies that almost anything not made of stone or metal must be absent at all times from around all sheds. Dry vegetation must mean all wood products, including tables and chairs, fence posts, sawn timber, firewood, animal feed, dead weeds, dead grass, and so on. Debris could be anything that a duly authorised officer deems it to be and is wide open to arbitrary interpretation. Flammable material is anything that ignites easily and burns rapidly with a flame. This includes native vegetation, as well as umbrellas, shadecloth, empty flower pots, plastic ware, and so on. Is council really intent on being so prescriptive about how rural residents manage their lifestyles around their sheds – and for what benefit? Would council tell urban residents what they can do around their backyard sheds?
  3. Sheds and outbuildings may occupy up to 300 square metres on a Banjup small holding. If those sheds and outbuildings are close to natural vegetation, then up to 500 square metres will have to be removed to comply with the new Fire Control Order. ( 30 x 10 shed in a 40 x 20 area is 300 m2 in 800 m2, an extra 500 m2 for clearance.) This is larger than most urban blocks. For Banjup’s 400 properties, up to 20 hectares of bushland could be at risk of clearance to comply with the 5 metre rule.
  4. It appears to Banjup Residents that council and its officers have not thought about the 5 metre clearance rule properly and have rushed through the change because they had the opportunity to do so. Again, we ask: why does Cockburn want to do this? Why do you want the rule if you are not going to enforce it? If you do enforce it, what is the benefit? It is not as if a pile of firewood outside a shed is going to ignite spontaneously and cause a bush fire.

Many property insurance policies require that policy holders comply with all local government regulations, otherwise claims might be refused. By making onerous, unnecessary, and illogical regulations such as this 5 metre rule, the City of Cockburn is invalidating many of its ratepayers’ insurances. This is irresponsible.

The Banjup Residents Group calls upon the City of Cockburn to rescind the 5 metre rule at requirement (2) b) of its Fire Control Order. The rule was declared without consultation and is unnecessary and illogical.



Cockburn Lacks Good Faith

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 7, 2013 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The City of Cockburn has made a sham of its public consultation process. Despite council calling for public comment in April and May 2013 for this year’s Fire Control Order, not only has council at its July meeting dismissed all comments (as it is may do)  but it has also adopted a Fire Control Order that is significantly different from the one advertised.

Banjup residents have received with their rates notices a Fire Control Order that requires us to keep our fire breaks clear from 1 October to 31 May. It also requires us to:

have the area which is within 5 metres of a shed or outbuilding clear of all dry vegetation, debris, and flammable material

This requirement was not included in the sham public consultation. It was slipped into the Cockburn council agenda without notice and approved by council at its July meeting. They could do this because they had repealed the Local Laws that obliged them to advertise all changes. They now rely on the Bush Fire Act which allows them to dictate what they like without consultation.



60 Residents Attend June General Meeting

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 7, 2013 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On a cold winter’s day, 60 Banjup residents attended the June general meeting. The presentation materials and the minutes of the meeting can be downloaded here.

Group members resolved:

  • To ask the City of Cockburn to spend the $300,000 budget assigned for building footpaths on fire prevention measures instead – that is, clearing verges and laying gravel.
  • That the explanation given by the Chief Bush Fire Control Officer for restricting the issue of fire permits in April and May was not satisfactory – that is, unspecified “weather conditions” was not adequate.
  • To lobby government to allow Banjup’s 2 hectare blocks with 1 title to be split into 2 1 hectare titles.



Fire Break Period Extended by 3 Months

Posted by Ian Thurston on June 4, 2013 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

The City of Cockburn proposes to extend by 3 months the Fire Break Period to 1 November to 31 May. The Banjup Residents Group strongly opposes this proposal. All 100 members who attended the AGM on 10 February were against it

Your Committee has met several times with the Mayor, councillors, and senior officers of the City of Cockburn to discuss our concerns about extending the Fire Break Period. However, the City proved intransigent and has insisted on extending the Period.

The City of Cockburn has advertised the new fire control order for public comment. Your Committee has lodged a strongly worded objection to it (see here) but we are not optimistic that anyone at Cockburn is listening – they do not want to hear facts. The reality is that, following the Roleystone and Margaret River bush fires and the subsequent inquiries, the City of Cockburn does not wish to be criticised in the future for not taking all conceivable steps to minimise risks to people and property

You can expect the City’s ‘Fire Control Order’ for 2013-14 that will be included with July’s rates notices, to reflect the new dates. That is, from 1 November to 31 May all fire breaks must be cleared and maintained to ‘mineral earth’.

Those property owners who are unable to clear their fire breaks because of boggy ground in November will have to apply for an exemption by 1 October.




Fire Break Period

Posted by Ian Thurston on January 25, 2013 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (1)

The City of Cockburn wants to change the way in which it manages the Fire Break Period – those months when we have to keep our fire breaks clear of flammable matter.

Until now, local laws prescribed the Fire Break Period conditions. This meant that any changes would have to be advertised, debated, and, finally, approved by the State Governor. Cockburn now wants to abolish this lengthy process and use instead internal procedures, approved only by the council of the City.

Clumsy though the previous procedure might have been, at least residents had the opportunity to comment on changes to proposed local laws. Your Committee was successful recently in pressing council to provide 6 weeks’ notice of proposed changes, rather than have the bureaucrats simply impose them upon us.

Banjup will have the opportunity next month to engage with Cockburn to define the Fire Break Period times and procedures. The City is currently proposing the 7 months from 1 November to 31 May as the duration of the Period. Cockburn has provided no clear evidence as to why such a lengthy period is required – it all seems tobe ‘gut feel’.

Your Committee needs clear direction from members as to what Fire Break Period arrangements would be workable and acceptable. Please come along to the AGM on 10 February and make your views known.