The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project only in December 2019 drew up a Multi Agency Emergency Management Plan. It would have been more appropriate to have considered the impact on our emergency services and our local community from the beginning. Why wasn’t it considered in the Warburton Feasibility Study of 2013? Why wasn’t it considered in the risk assessment documents of 2016 and 2019?
The Bushfire Management Statement & Plan (draft) finally appears in 2020.
However there is still no Management Statement for mountain bike injuries.
Mountain Bikers will have accidents (they already do in our area) and our local paramedic/ambulance services (and medical clinics and hospitals) will have to respond to these eventualities. They are already strained to excess as described in a newspaper article in the Mountain Views Mail:
Referring to the overstretched services in the Yarra Valley, Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic Jason Callanan says:
“Your brother who is short of breath having an asthma attack, we can’t get to him in time because we’re dealing with this (an avoidable car crash). To another. “Your baby sister who has croup, we can’t get to her in time,” and another, “Your mum or dad who has chest pain, or could be having a stroke, we can’t get to them either, because we’re dealing with this; and it’s something that could have been avoided.”
So what will happen when those paramedics are instead dealing with Mountain Bike Casualties, something else that was entirely avoidable? And this is further complicated by the remote trails that the Ambos will have to go out to, in order to retrieve injured Mountain Bikers.
If a bushfire occurs, the many mountain bikers will cause a great strain on any evacuation. It is reprehensible to load a projected 4,125 mountain bikers per week in addition to other visitors and our locals, many of them scattered throughout the hills on trails isolated from easy contact. Evacuation off the mountains and on our narrow roads with the choke point on Warburton Highway is highly problematic. It is not something that should be considered an afterthought, after the decision to build has been made and the funding for it has been acquired.
The Fire Management Statement & Plan 2020 (Draft) offers a management strategy for Bushfire risk.
It admits we are in an extremely dangerous bushfire risk area and also admits that mountain bikers will be out on isolated trails and not within easy access of local townships.
There solution is to close all trails on Severe, Extreme and Code Red fire danger alert days and also to close all remote trails on High and Very High fire danger days. Locals know that would effectively close the trails for the entire summer period, the last month of Spring and the first month of Autumn. However, it contradicts itself, in that later in the document it talks only about closing trails on Extreme and Code Red days – and these are the remote trails. So which?
Observing how impossible it is to stop mountain bikers accessing the trails already I doubt this will work. Mountain bikers make trails around gates and other infrastructure designed to keep them out. The Plan also suggests signage would help inform mountain bikers – however our experience of mountain bikers is that they ignore and vandalise signs.
Failing that, the mountain bikers are to be evacuated to our Fire Shelters or Neighbourhood Safer Places. Our Fire Shelters hold just over 300 person each in an area of over 3,000 residents. Add tourists and you have a disaster. The Neighbourhood safer places are not very safe.
Locals asking tourists if they checked the fire ratings before visiting has revealed that most simply don’t.
The Plan suggests creating an Emergency Planning Committee whose job will be to evacuate the mountain bikers. There is to be a full time warden and a deputy warden and then extras hired over high fire danger periods. The wardens are to be supplied with vehicles and two way radios. All visitors are to sign in and receive fire safety training. That will be a really big undertaking – and are you noticing the expense here? Someone will have to be at every trailhead stopping all mountain bikers, checking their gear is appropriate and giving them the training.
Scenic Warburton Bushfire Risk Highest in Victoria
This article highlights the fire risks of living in the Upper Yarra Valley that makes it clear that an extra load of tourists here will make things far more difficult:
And so does this video put out by the CFA which discusses all the issues that residents worry about particularly with a large extra population of tourists, with 4,000+ extra mountain bike riders needing to not just be evacuated but to be evacuated off remote locations on the mountains among dense bushland.
Some quotes from the video:
“(Launching Place, Warburton etc) . . .it’s time and distance so it can take some time for us to get to some of those places. All of those places are at high risk of bushfire.
“This area is very dry, it is very prone to bushfire. We are very vulnerable because we just have one highway going in and going out. Egress is an issue if there is going to be a fire.
“With traffic issues already on the Warburton Highway and many houses surrounded by dense bushland, getting 12,000 people out of here in a hurry if a major bushfire hits is one of our biggest challenges and biggest concerns.
There is also a section where a fire truck has to cross onto the wrong side of the road on a narrow bend because there are road bikes riding multiple abreast blocking the entire left hand side of the road.
This video features Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman on January 17 at 2:43 PM in which he says:
“Surprisingly for me we are still finding that even where we have a Total Fire Ban people are still lighting camp fires. That is irresponsible and it can lead to devastating bush fires which impact rural communities and could impact people’s lives.” Vic Emergency Video
Warburton Mountain Bike Destination – Risk Management Assessments
Accidents and injuries are not mentioned in The Warburton Mountain Bike Hub – Risk Management Plan 2016, in their Economic Assessment of Health and Recreation Benefits Final Report Dec 2019 nor in their Warburton Mountain Bike Destination – Qualitative Risk Management Assessment Dec 2019
When preparing a Risk Assessment it is advised to include the likelihood of death and serious injuries as an outcome. The likelihood of a death caused by injuries occurring on the WMBD is a probability, while serious injury is a definite. The silence on this in their risk assessment is a serious omission.
These assessments are supposed to be based on the Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Risk Management Principles and Guidelines as a guide
The Warburton Mountain Bike Hub – Risk Management Plan 2016
Economic Assessment of Health and Recreation Benefits Final Report Dec 2019
Their plan was supposed to include these risk criteria:
Yet nothing was said about risk to human life or health through injury or fire risk. Only economic considerations and the ‘low risk’ of political fallout. Notice how serious a fatality is rated, that injuries requiring hospitalisation should be included.
Even though the guidelines mention risk to wildlife, nothing was said about the loss of habitat to an endangered species (ie Leadbeater’s Possum) or to other wildlife, from disturbance of their habitat or increased risk of injury on the roads from increased traffic.
Nothing was said about the social impact, that will cause disruption to community well-being.
All the risks evaluated were about construction delays, planning permit blow outs, budget blow outs, traffic disruptions (during construction only), etc. with one ‘low risk’ concern that there may be some political risk from the community (page 11):
Please note that approaches to the council and other authorities have been undertaken by multiple groups and individuals. There has been little mitigation to warrant the ‘residual’ risk.
The risk assessment used the Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Risk Management Principles and Guidelines as a guide.
Warburton Mountain Bike Destination – Qualitative Risk Management Assessment Dec 2019
This document is the updated document and goes into more detail on risk management. However, there is still no risk management for accidents in it.