Liberal leader Libby Mettam weighs in on Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade shed closure

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Liberal leader Libby Mettam has spoken up to defend the Wallcliffe shed at Gnarabup.
Camera IconLiberal leader Libby Mettam has spoken up to defend the Wallcliffe shed at Gnarabup. Credit: Warren Hately

Liberal Party leader and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam says she won’t relent in her efforts to overturn a decision to close the community fire shed at Gnarabup.

While correspondence back to her complaints to Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson showed little action, the newly minted Liberal leader has flagged a grievance motion in Parliament later this month.

Ms Mettam told the Times the recent decision by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to close Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade’s second unit as part of its transfer to State Government control overlooked the needs as well as the concerns of the coastal community affected by bushfire on multiple occasions.

She had also received strong feedback from residents alarmed at the decision they felt imperilled their community.

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As the Times reported last month, protest group Preserve Gnarabup first raised the alarm about the DFES decision, citing an inconsistency between closing the Gnarabup shed while also opposing the proposed Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa because of unacceptable bushfire risk.

Ms Mettam has urged Mr Dawson to countermand the DFES decision and also invoked that discrepancy.

“There is concern that this could potentially be a life-threatening decision, significantly reducing response times in what is a high fire-risk area,” she said.

“Local residents are deeply concerned, particularly having lived through the devastating Margaret River bushfire in 2011 that destroyed homes.

“They have advised that the unit has since provided extra protection, enabling a rapid response and avoiding a more serious fire incident.”

Residents canvassed by the Times this week, including the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association, expressed disbelief and dismay the minister continued to defer the call to DFES which he oversees.

However, Mr Dawson’s response to Ms Mettam’s plea reiterated sticking by the DFES decision.

He said the DFES call was based on the Gnarabup shed not being “fit for purpose”.

Similar to DFES responses to Times inquiries, Mr Dawson cited the greatly increased response capability of firefighting personnel since the 2011 bushfires, which included aerial support.

“I note your reference to the proposed development for the Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa and Gnarabup Beach Village, and the community safety concerns raised by DFES,” he said in the letter.

“It is acknowledged the two matters are geographically close. However, the proposed development and the decision to relocate the light tanker are independent of one another.

“Furthermore, the allocation and placement of operational assets is the sole responsibility of the DFES Commissioner.”

Mr Dawson said the relocation of the light tanker made no operational difference to the State Government’s bushfire response.

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