BACKYARD burn-offs could soon be a more common occurrence in Lake Macquarie.
The council voted on Monday night to put in a request to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Air Policy Unit to upgrade the council’s authority over pile burning.
Such activity, where residents burn their green waste, is prohibited in Lake Macquarie under part one of the Protection of the Environment Operation Act 1997.
All residents – their properties large or small – must have approval from the NSW Environment Protection Authority to do so.
Approval could be granted by the council, if it was listed under part two of the Act – a move that would shift $100,000 a year from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) onto ratepayers.
Wyong, Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens councils are already listed under part two.
Three-quarters of the Lake Macquarie local government area is bushfire prone, according to the RFS.
In a private notice of motion, councillor Kay Fraser urged Lake Macquarie to do the same.
She said acreage landowners had ‘‘clearly expressed a need to be able to undertake controlled pile burns to assist in property management and bushfire preparedness’’.
‘‘People on large properties must go through a very onerous process [to prepare for bushfire],’’ Cr Fraser said.
She also said the change would ‘‘reduce the number of waste calls to RFS volunteers’’ and free up their time for ‘‘more important work’’.
Cr Fraser’s argument, however, did little to convince some of her fellow councillors.
Councillor Laurie Coghlan said there was not enough evidence to support the change.
‘‘Just because Wyong [council] is in category two doesn’t mean we should go down that road too,’’ he said.
‘‘Burning very close to a heavily populated area could be disastrous.’’
The motion was passed 9-2, with councillors Coghlan and Jason Pauling noting their dissent.
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