Fire fears over uncut grass

Hepburn residents are concerned for their safety after long grass has been left to dry out next to the Hepburn Neighbourhood Place of Last Resort. 

Grass is almost two metres high at the NPLR, which is at the Hepburn Football and Netball grounds, at the edge of the township. 

Residents say it presents a fire risk in an area that is supposed to be a safe place in the event of a bushfire, and they claim the council was not listening to their complaints about long dry grass on public land and along the 

roadside.  

One resident said: “I have called the shire about five times – the last time I called I was told a fire prevention officer would visit the site, which they did but nothing has happened since, and that was weeks ago.”

Another resident said the council “used to mow the grass once or twice a year but now they seem to be hiring contractors to slash private blocks of land instead of their own”. 

The concerns are being expressed at a time when the shire council is inspecting private property for fire hazards, and any landholder who is found to have fire hazards on their property will be issued with a notice to clean the property within 14 days or a contractor will cut the grass at the landowner’s

expense.

However Hepburn Shire mayor Don Henderson said some of the public land  was controlled by VicRoads and environmental overlays had to be taken into account.

“We just can’t go in and mow the grassland,” he said.

Bruce Lucas, shire general manager infrastructure, said: “Council has a number of outstanding inquires from members of the public which council is aware of and continues to follow up.

“Officers will be in contact with these residents as we work to resolve these issues.”

Trees around power lines have also been a safety issue for many residents in the area, with complaints to Powercor, Vemco (contractor to Powercor) and the shire also being ignored, residents say.

Concerns by some residents that there is not sufficient council funding for the slashing of grass and pruning of trees was dismissed by the external affairs spokesperson for Citipower and Powercor, Lyall Johnson.

“It is not correct Hepburn Shire Council will not allow Powercor to conduct vegetation management works in the area. Rather, Powercor is urgently seeking further meetings with the council to finalise a joint tree management plan for the entire shire. We are hoping to meet with council officers this week.” 

Powercor and other electrical distribution businesses  wee required to have a tree management plan with local councils,  Cr Henderson said.

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