Comboyne man says council should have cleared burnt roads sooner | photos

A man who lives west of Comboyne on Colling Road where a bushfire caused severe damage last month says the council didn’t act quickly enough to clear the road afterwards.

Michael Azzopardi says he phoned the council repeatedly after the fire, to ask them to come up and clear debris along the roadsides because of the danger it caused.

He said council offered no assistance in the week after the fire, and it felt like the community of Comboyne has been forgotten.

I was informed that a road crew was scheduled to attend Colling Road on Tuesday October 10, 12 days after my request. This was only due to an enquiry from Wauchope Gazette and not in response to my repeated recorded requests.

Michael Azzopardi

Mr Azzopardi lives on Colling Road west of Comboyne, which was closed by fire on the evening of Sunday September 24.

He said the next day, it was opened, with intermittent falling trees causing temporary road closures.  He contacted the council on Thursday September 28 and was told it would be dealt with, but said he saw no sign of road clearance so he phoned again that day, and the next day, explaining the location of the debris of rocks and small trees on corners, many blind, forcing vehicles to the opposite side of the road.

“I asked why no PMHC road crew vehicles had been in attendance since the fires and the man I spoke to made the statement that he had attended Colling Road on Monday September 25 and had surveyed the road and explained that NPWS NSW was handling fallen trees on the road.

“He explained to me that PMHC had diverted its road machinery to fires at Pappinbarra and no heavy equipment was available. I explained that no heavy equipment was needed and a two-man road team in a utility equipped with a chain saw would remedy the danger. This request was denied,” said Mr Azzopardi.

On Thursday October 5, Mr Azzopardi contact MP David Gillespie’s office, and on Monday October 9, he contacted the council again.

“I was informed that a road crew was scheduled to attend Colling Road on Tuesday October 10, 12 days after my request.  This was only due to an enquiry from Wauchope Gazette and not in response to my repeated recorded requests,” he said

“This complete lack of response by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council regarding the urgent situation in the Comboyne area during the time of the fires reflects poorly upon the council, and only enforces the Port Macquarie-centric view PMHC has achieved,” he added.

A council spokesman said the safety of its crews was its first concern.

“When Mr Azzopardi first contact us, the fires were still happening.  Our staff have re-assessed the area and are removing material this week.  In the coming weeks, our staff will look at other urgent clearing that may be required.

“We have been working really closely with the Comboyne community since the fires,” added the spokesman.

“We are aware of the issues, and the safety of our crews and the community was the first priority,” he said.