The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project is only now drawing 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, the latest of which was prepared in 2018?
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.
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.
CFA Know Your Risk Yarra Valley video
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 Plan
In order to get funding the Project had to put out a Risk Management Plan. This is the Plan that was submitted to the Federal ‘Building Better Regions Fund’ which then allocated funds of $3,000,000 for the Project.
WMBD – Risk Management Plan
Their plan was supposed to include these risk criteria (page 4 of above document):
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.