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Pile Burning a health risk

CEN belives that this is a very bad policy that will impact the health of many people with asthma as it allows burning without a permit and increases the amount of fuel by 270%.

The existing RFS/NSWFB Policy on Pile Burning does all that is needed for keeping properties clear of fuel around buildings. In areas within the Sydney Air Shed (i.e. from the Hunter to Illawarra via the Central Coast) Pile Burning should not be allowed as nearly 5 million people (roughly 450,000 of whom have asthma) are impacted by what is discretionary burning.

The asthma foundation has previously raised the issue with the NSW Government, see file:///C:/Users/CCEN/AppData/Local/Temp/wlmail-433777574/supfiles2A14595/Clean%20Air%20for%20New%20South%20Wales_Submission.pdf

In particular:

The NSW Rural Fire Service has an existing Pile Burning Standard (See: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/13323/Standards-for-Pile-Burning.pdf )which notes:

If the pile burn could be of danger to a building (at any time of the year) or the burn is during the Bush Fire Danger Period, you must have a Fire Permit issued by the RFS or Fire and Rescue NSW. This standard provides advice regarding the construction of vegetation piles in order to allow safe and efficient burning.

It appears that the CC Council has been lobbied to implement a Central Coast Council draft Pile Burning policy which is on exhibition until 19th December. The policy is a massive expansion of the scale of burning (i.e. Increases the size (diameter) of logs from 150 mm to 300 mm , an increase of 400%, Increases the bulk of Open Pile Burns from 1.5 by 2 metres to 2 metres by 4 metres an increase of 270%). It also seeks to remove the need for a permit and instead allow for self assessment and burns at any time. 

The current draft allows self assessment for:

D1           Parcels of land must be:

  • Greater than 4,000m2in area; and
    • RE2 Private Recreation, 
    • R5 Large Lot Residential, 
    • RU1 Primary Production, 
    • RU2 Rural Landscape,
    • RU5 Village or 
    • RU6 Transition under the Local Environment Plan.
      • Self assessment means nothing.

bonfire2 webThe draft policy has excluded self-assessment on Environmentally Zones land – but there is huge pressure on councillors for this to be allowed.

RFS have indicated that there are 3 major considerations each comes under different legislation:

  1. Safety and Controlling Wildfire is the responsibility of the RFS and the Bushfires Act;
  2. Smoke is the regulatory responsibility of the EPA and CC Council. The person who lights the fire (either with or without a permit) is responsible for any deleterious effects on neighbours;
  3. Environment(vegetation) is the responsibility of the CC Council and clearing or burning needs their approval.

However, RFS are missing a significant aspect, being the impact of pollution on public health. As this policy covers the discretionary burning of a heap of dry vegetation at any time except during days of total fire bans it is not emergency or critical part of the fire risk management strategy. The fuel could just as easily be disposed of by other means which do not generate smoke – such as mulching or dumping at a waste facility. Air Pollution in the Sydney Air Shed can come from anywhere from the Central Coast to the Illawarra as the winds recirculate being trapped between the mountains and the coast.

There are many areas on the Central Coast where blocks of rural residential of 4,000 + square metres could be burnt regularly. For example, In the immediate area surrounding Glenning Valley, (Ourimbah, Berkeley Vale) there are nearly 14,000 people who are likely to be adversely impacted by smoke. Hence, the policy should not apply near urban areas.

Where burning may be conducted without a Permit, there is nothing to stop people burning each time a pile of leaves can be raked up, this could be almost continually. 1 in 9 Australians suffer from asthma and wood smoke is a source which is almost impossible to avoid.

It is not that hard to take vegetation to the tip – just laziness and disregard for the health of others by some landowners.

If you are affected by smoke or live in an area where people like to light up every weekend say NO to more pollution. Put a submission which asks CC Council to always require a Permit for Pile Burning.

CEN has an online form to help with submissions - click here

For more information visit: https://www.yourvoiceourcoast.com/draftopenpileburnpolicy

Remember - submissions are due by 19th December

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