Yellow Rock bush battle

Tree clearing issues have been raised at Yellow Rock where Oasis Nursery wants a 100 metre clear zone following the devastating October bushfires last year. Pictured is nursery manager Brett Sidebottom with managing director Peter Cronin. "If I've got an expert saying it's unsafe to have those trees here, then I've got to respond."

Tree clearing issues have been raised at Yellow Rock where Oasis Nursery wants a 100 metre clear zone following the devastating October bushfires last year. Pictured is nursery manager Brett Sidebottom with managing director Peter Cronin. "If I've got an expert saying it's unsafe to have those trees here, then I've got to respond."

William Negrone in his backyard. He lost his home in last year's fires and is concerned by plans by Oasis Nursery to clear trees that separate his property from theirs.

William Negrone in his backyard. He lost his home in last year's fires and is concerned by plans by Oasis Nursery to clear trees that separate his property from theirs.

It's the eternal conflict that's so much a part of living in the Blue Mountains - wanting to live amongst the gumtrees, but also wanting to protect yourself from fire.

And it's a problem that spilled over down Singles Ridge Road in the wake of the terrible fires in October last year.

Oasis Horticulture (Consolo Ltd) managing director Peter Cronin wants to clear a 100 metre strip of bushland around the perimetre of the greenhouses and other buildings to ensure it protects itself from future bushfires and covers insurance and other legal requirements of his business, but William Negrone who lives next door believes it's an overreaction, and harmful to the bushland he loves.

"This is the second fire in 12 years and it's been a wake up call for us, watching from Sydney as our people were taking videos of the fire from the canteen," Mr Cronin, who has spent "north of four million in repairs to the nursery since the fires", said.

The application for bushfire hazard reduction works at 230 Singles Ridge Road affects 9.84 hectares of bushland of the 44 hectare site and is currently being assessed by Blue Mountains City Council. Under Rural Fire Service regulations of 2006 the limit to clearance is 20 metres.

"Since the GFC [the Global Financial Crisis] there's been a big focus in business generally on risk management. I don't think we have any choice about it, there's a governance issue for a start, there's a board for this company and there's a management committee and they are officers under the Corporations act, the problem we have is if we don't comply with a document that says we need a 100 metres [zone] and we have a fatality ... it's a difficult one for us to deal with .... we've got a 100 metre problem and we don't want to jeopardise safety."

William and Jo-Anne Negrone, who live at 226a Singles Ridge Rd and are rebuilding after the fires, are worried about the trees being removed and associated escalating noise from the sirens on site, historically used to notify workers on the large property of meal breaks. He's also worried about "damage to threatened fauna" such as the broad headed snake and the turquoise parrot in a significant vegetation and protected area and the "environmentally irresponsible" approach 400 metres from their home.

"The local habitat has already been reduced significantly due to the fires," Mr Negrone said.

"Destroying such a large area of native forest to protect planting sheds is not only contrary to the local conservation management plan but a significant misalignment of priorities for a council such as ours."

The clearing would have a "permanent visual impact" on their home and he suggests alternative measures similar to those imposed on home owners.

Mr Cronin said the company had already upgraded facilities, including putting fire screens on windows, and was "happy to host a community information day or days with local residents" to discuss any concerns, including "workarounds on the sirens" and possible maitenance of stands of trees in that 100 metre zone.

Oasis is the largest producer and distributor of bedding nursery plants in Australia and, after council, is believed to be the Blue Mountains largest employer with a staff of about 200. The Gazette understands this is the only application of its size that council has received since the fires.

The site is currently being considered by council as a Yellow Rock safer neighbourhood zone during bushfires.

More than 70 staff and some residents of Yellow Rock sought shelter there during the fires and the Elvis chopper siphoned out more than 1 million litres from their two dams during the fire emergency and seven staff lost their homes.

Mayor Mark Greenhill said "council will be guided by the recommendations made by the Rural Fire Service, as is appropriate and standard practice when expert advice is sought from external state agencies" and was "preparing a response to the applicant in relation to the advice from the RFS, as well as in relation to the preliminary environmental assessment of the site undertaken by council staff".

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