Coast suburbs most at risk from bushfire infernos
MORE than a third of the Gold Coast faces a massive bushfire risk with almost 42,000 structures exposed to the threat.
The Gold Coast Bulletin can reveal an update to council on its bushfire management plan shows that 51,051ha or 37 per cent of the Gold Coast's total area is mapped a "very high, high or medium bushfire hazard".
Another 26,329ha - 19 per cent of the city - is within a 100m potential impact buffer to the bushfire hazard.
Council bushfire hazard overlay mapping shows those areas most at risk are west of the Pacific Motorway, stretching from Ormeau to Kingsholme west of Pimpama, south to Wongawallan, Clagiraba, Canungra and Mudgeeraba.
But pockets of extreme fire danger zones are also scattered east in built-up areas - in the middle of Oxenford, the eastern side of Coombabah, through suburban Southport and Burleigh and along ridge lines at Currumbin east to the Coast.
The council report estimates 41,797 structures - these are either homes, commercial offices or industrial sheds and complexes - are at "varying levels of bushfire risk".
"As the city grows, there is a potential for more structures to be located proximate to this hazard, with properties on the urban fringe the most susceptible to wildfire," the report said.
Council can fire proof future developments by demanding developers create buffer zones and investors continue to clear their land, but it cannot enforce action on long approved hinterland blocks near forests and grasslands.
"There is little capacity for the city to enforce ongoing bushfire risk mitigation on private freehold land and to ensure a balance between bushfire protection and the city's conservation values," the report said.
The update also warned that the unprecedented bushfires which impacted on the region from Mackay to Bundaberg in late 2018 would stretch south to southeast Queensland.
Councillors backed a recommendation that an updated bushfire management plan would be presented later in the year, and a working group be created between council directorates to help the city be more resilient against the threat.
Nerang-based city councillor Peter Young told the Gold Coast Bulletin: "The climate change strategy that was introduced in 2009 identified that there would be an intensification of bushfire risk in the city because of the number of homes built in approximation to bushland and grasslands.
"There's more encroachment into the vegetated areas. Those developments have been identified in the strategic mapping."
Cr Young today was updating residents on Facebook as he monitored a "really concerning" long controlled burn in the Nerang State Forest and a smaller hazard burn at Wongawallan which along with an uncontrolled wildfire near Canungra had turned hinterland skies grey.
He said the recent approval of a retirement village in bushland at Nerang required the operator to put in place a solid bushfire management plan.
"The objective is to avoid the wildfire scenario impacts on communities that we have seen overseas and even in our own country, in Victoria," Cr Young said.
"For some developers now those fire management plans are very substantial documents. It's a very significant industry. But there are thousands of homes built before these things were contemplated. It falls back on the private property owner to undertake risk management."
Coomera MP and Kingsholme resident Michael Crandon said he had sought recent advice from volunteer rural fire brigade members about the fuel load on his rural property.
"The fire in 2000, only a year after we moved in, our neighbour was ready to pull out, so I've had concerns. There is some work going on. I'm in the process of cleaning the block up," Mr Crandon said.
"They've (the rural fireys) told me that my block is in good nick. But some of the blocks around me and in parkland areas, they haven't had hazard burns for some time."
Mr Crandon admitted there was only so much council could do with hazard burns given its budget.
He said it could take at least 12 months for the rural fire brigades to get to some properties and complete a proper assessment.
"I hope we never end up with a year 2000 fire. We were really worried. We had something along those lines again in 2019. Maybe it's every ten years - that's what we are worried about."