THE Ballarat region could be at risk from new volcanoes forming as Victoria remains overdue for a volcanic eruption, a University of Melbourne geologist has warned. Associate Professor Bernie Joyce said yesterday that most of Australia was unprepared for a volcanic eruption which could come without much warning. Professor Joyce said extinct volcanoes, including Mt Warrenheip and Mt Buninyong, suggested similar volcanoes could form in the area. “Because the volcanoes around the Ballarat area are not as young as others across western Victoria and Mt Gambier, you could expect a new volcano to come up in a cluster at some point in the future,” he said.“It might not happen for many years, but when you look at areas like Mt Franklin, there is no reason why new volcanoes or eruptions might not happen.” Professor Joyce said given the potential for volcanic activity, emergency authorities must better prepare themselves and the community to respond to it.He said some cities had better levels of preparedness. “The authorities in Auckland have brought together a team of experts to discuss different scenarios and how the city would need to respond,” Professor Joyce said.“Australian governments need to consider doing the same thing.” Professor Joyce said a small volcano could have a significant impact on nearby communities. “Depending on what type it is and where it is located, you would expect to see ash which will make road and rail transport difficult and need to be cleaned up,’’ he said. “Lava will affect water sources and ash is not good for breathing systems while ash will contaminate crops, grass and the food animals eat.” Around Victoria there are nearly 400 extinct volcanoes.The Ballarat region has volcanoes including Mt Blackwood near Bacchus Marsh, Mt Franklin near Daylesford, Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip.Mt Kooroocheang, north-east of Creswick, stands at 230m and is one of the largest volcanoes in central Victoria. Mt Warrenheip erupted a million years ago, while Mt Franklin, considered a young volcano, erupted 470,000 years ago.