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Arcadia Park: Bushfire Mitigation Measures, Vegetation Management Plans, and Plans of Management

In this post, we examine several issues relating to Arcadia Park – Bushfire Mitigation Measures, Vegetation Management Plans, and Plans of Management.

Crown Land Reserve

Arcadia Park is “a reserve within the meaning of Part 5 of the Crown Lands Act 1989″ and is managed by Council. It is zoned RE1 Public Recreation. The objectives of this zone are:

  • To enable land to be used for public open space or recreational purposes.
  • To provide a range of recreational settings and activities and compatible land uses.
  • To protect and enhance the natural environment for recreational purposes.

Plan of Management

As the manager of Arcadia Park, Council has certain responsibilities. One of these is to have a Plan of Management (PoM) for the Crown Land for which they are responsible. The requirement for a PoM is set out in the Crown Land Management Act (2016) and the Local Government Act (1993). There are transitional provisions associated with the implementation of the new Crown Land Act and so Councils have time to develop their PoMs. Arcadia Park doesn’t have a PoM at this point. It does have a Vegetation Management Plan.

Planning for Bushfire Protection

Arcadia Park is the land adjoining proposed development at 11-17 Mosbri Crescent. It is a wild, wooded park and because of this, the development site is deemed to be bushfire prone land. The ways in which development must respond to the risk of bushfire are set out in the Planning for Bushfire Protection (PBP 2006).

The relevant requirements are mainly  in relation to Asset Protection Zones and access provisions. Authorisation from a bush fire safety authority (the Rural Fire Service) is required under Section 100B of the Rural Fires Act for the development to proceed.

The Rural Fire Service wrote to Council 7 March 2019 asking for more information to assist with their assessment of the proposal. Council appears to have provided the requested information on 1 May 2019. Council’s letter advises that if the RFS has not provided notice of whether they will grant an approval — or if the general terms of approval have not been provided after the relevant statutory period — the consent authority may determine development application.

Bushfire Assessment Report

The way in which a development proposal demonstrates its compliance with the PBP 2006 is through a bushfire assessment report.

There are now three bushfire reports associated with this site. A Bushfire Threat Assessment was prepared to support the rezoning in 2017. This document can be downloaded from Council’s meeting archives.

A Bushfire Assessment Report (BAR 12/2018) was submitted in January 2019 as one of the documents available during the exhibition period for the DA. Then an amended report (BAR 02/2019) was submitted in February 2019 after the exhibition period had closed.

All three reports are by the same consultant, but they make inconsistent claims about what is required in order for the proposed development to comply with the PBP 2006.

Bushfire Assessment Report and Vegetation Management Plan

The original Bushfire Assessment Report (BAR 12/2018) that was submitted as part of the DA documentation in January 2019 included a Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) for Arcadia Park as an attachment. Council Officers have advised that the Vegetation Management Plan is an internal, working document that does not have the status of a PoM.

However, the Bushfire Assessment Report for the DA relies heavily on the Vegetation Management Plan to suggest that the development will achieve compliance with the PBP 2006.

The BAR 12/2008 makes a number of claims, based on the VMP, concerning vegetation clearing and the size of Asset Protection Zones, including where they’ll be situated. It notes that:

… the majority of the Park is affected by either the bushfire mitigation measures or the open space alongside tracks” (p. 12).

The BAR 12/2018 is now “superseded” and has been replaced with an “amended” Bushfire Assessment Report (BAR 02/2019).

Very little has actually changed.

In fact, the BAR 02/2019 notes that:

… the bushfire mitigation measures to be determined by NCC within Arcadia Park have been considered. In addition to the 9m setback from the eastern site boundary and the residential buildings, a minimum 10m APZ (up to 18m) is to be established within Arcadia Park; equaling a combined minimum 18m setback between the nearest unmanned bushfire hazard and the residential building (p. 26).

If the proposal depends on any bushfire mitigation measures in Arcadia Park then these must be negotiated through a transparent process. A transparent process would ask whether it is appropriate to effectively gift public land to a developer for private profit.

Next steps

It seems the Community is not alone in questioning whether the proposed development meets the requirements of the PBP 2006.

Open Newcastle has commissioned a report from an independent bush fire consultant to establish what the PBP 2006 requires of the proposed development.

We advised Council of problems with the current documentation 8 April 2019 in this – Letter – and have let them know that we will forward them a copy of the independent bushfire report as soon as this is available.

We have also submitted a GIPA request for information about the development and the status of the Vegetation  Management Plan and will provide updates on progress.

You can download all the DA documents from the City of Newcastle webpage

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