Russell islanders wants Redland council to clean up its back yard to prevent fires

BLAZE:  A caravan parked in burnt scrub. Photo: Hannah Baker
BLAZE: A caravan parked in burnt scrub. Photo: Hannah Baker

RUSSELL Islanders want to know when Redland City Council will speed up fire mitigation and clean up publicly-owned land.

Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association chairman Greg Hartay-Szabo said some work had been done but islanders were waiting for council to begin back burns.

“On the southern part of the island, most people haven’t seen any clean-up, especially back burning,” he said.

“I would have thought that after the (QFES) report that they would start in the highest risk area which is the Glendale Road area.”

Mr Hartay-Szabo said the lack of activity was a major concern given the fires and July’s damning Queensland Fire and Emergency Services report on dangerous conditions on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands.

“We’re almost back to square one where we were last year in terms of the need for ground fuel removal and the need for burning apart from a few fire trails they’ve cleared,” he said.

“They’ve done some work in the middle of the island and the north around Channel Street but not down south. “Now the weather is getting so hot, they can’t do it.”

Last week QFES cancelled all fire permits due to dangerous weather conditions.

A council spokesperson said fuel loads on the southern end had been markedly reduced by last year’s fires which meant council was concentrating in areas where fuel had built up.

She said council had done a substantial amount of maintenance and fire mitigation work since receiving the QFES report in July.

This included the slashing of a total of 449 blocks on the islands and three burns on Russell’s Centre Road, Borrows Street and Jackson Road.

Eighteen blocks had been slashed on Karragarra, 187 on Macleay and 84 on Lamb, with the remainder on Russell.

Other mitigation work under way included:

• New fuel reduction zones adjacent to private properties (12 on Macleay, four on Russell and one on Lamb);

• Waste transfer stations on Macleay and Russell open seven days a week;

• Slashing of 34 fire tracks on Russell and a further 11 planned;

• A review of Redland fire plans and access tracks; and

• All island fire hydrants have been tested and maps given to police and Rural Fire Services showing hydrants.

Fuel reduction zones are areas usually three to 15 metres wide which are slashed between council land and houses.

For example, the five zones for Karragarra refer to each private house block that now has a fuel reduction zone adjacent to its boundary.

Whole block slashing refers to slashing normal residential council-owned blocks that are adjacent to private house blocks.

There are a total of 13,000 lots on Russell Island. Council is the largest land owner, with 5700 blocks. A total of 5100 of these are included in a conservation zone, meaning they contain significant environmental values and/or are in areas subject to tides or flooding.

Council is slashing or creating fuel reduction zones on its lots adjacent to private blocks with houses.

Acting Mayor Wendy Boglary said staff and QFES were educating residents about what they could do to reduce fire hazards.

“A fact sheet on how to undertake fire mitigation on private property is being developed,” she said.

Mr Hartay-Szabo said he also was concerned that insufficient work had been done on Macleay Island although residents – heavily criticised in the report – were cleaning up properties.

“We’ve read a lot about the council asking residents to clean up but we haven’t see them doing much,” he said.