Dear valued subscriber,
This summer's devastating fires across many parts of Australia have sparked questions about our preparedness for danger periods.
It is sometimes hard to fathom the tinder-box conditions that exist away from our green, lush coastline and regular rain.
But our biggest fire danger period is yet to come. We know too well the danger extends into next month. The 2018 St Patrick's Day fires that ripped through more than 24,000 hectares, flattened 26 houses and killed thousands of cattle and livestock will never be forgotten by those who miraculously survived the night-time blazes.
A new report has revealed the chaos among emergency services and residents that night. Emergency Management Victoria's report says 53 fires started and without power and telecommunications services, responders were severely challenged.
That report revealed roadside vegetation management was a big issue for residents. It found there were 107 high-risk areas.
While VicRoads says it has worked hard to reduce those hazards, concerns remain about the state's approach to maintaining roadsides. A recent forum in Terang called for more controlled burns and droving to be permitted. Commonsense suggestions if ever there were any. Corangamite Shire mayor Neil Trotter, who lives at Timboon, fears there is no safe place in his town because it is surrounded by bushland.
He is worried that only a small percentage of his neighbours have a plan if the town is threatened. He is urging residents to realise that in the event of a fire they should leave and on total fire ban days they consider heading to safer ground.
He is not fear mongering, he is realistic. We need to learn from this summer's fires and our experiences of St Patrick's Day 2018, Black Saturday and Ash Wednesday.
Individually we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves. But we need the state government and other agencies to develop strategies that help us too. That includes addressing vegetation on roadsides and in areas like national parks. It also means we need telecommunication companies to increase coverage; power companies to reduce fire risks. Our lives depend on it.
Warrnambool City Council's first meeting of 2020 had several talking points, none bigger than the horses on beaches saga. The council decided to defer a decision, citing the need for more information. The impact on indigenous cultural heritage appears to be the biggest issue. It's time the saga ended, one way or another.
The proposed Lookout alcohol and drug residential rehab centre received a boost when the council decided to support organisers' appeal over staffing levels. Without council's support, the project would have been in doubt. Its future hangs in the balance though with the VCAT appeal determining whether it will go ahead at Dennington. Strong support on our Facebook page underlined the need for the centre.
The week ahead will be big with the annual Sungold Field Days being held at Allansford. The field days are always full of entertainment and it will be interesting to gauge confidence among farmers.
Check out our new weekly podcast where we take you behind some of the big issues of the week, chatting with people in the news and our reporters.
Apologies again for the technical hitch with last week's calendar giveaway. Winners have been notified.
Here's a selection of other stories that made headlines this week.
Until next week