Central Coast District RFS spokesman Stuart O'Keefe in the operations room at the Fire Control Station on the day of the catastrophic fire warning on the Central Coast.
Central Coast District RFS spokesman Stuart O'Keefe in the operations room at the Fire Control Station on the day of the catastrophic fire warning on the Central Coast.

Call to correct omission from fire alerts

WHEN a catastrophic fire warning was issued last month for the Central Coast, many seniors and other residents didn't realise it applied to them.

The official announcements did not name the Central Coast because it is not recognised by many government agencies as a stand-alone region.

Instead it is lumped in with the Greater Sydney or Greater Hunter regions.

Central Coast Mayor Lisa Matthews and Federal Member for Dobell Emma McBride believe lives were potentially put at risk.

While acknowledging the brilliant job done by the NSW Rural Fire Service on the ground, and that it has stated it will change its warnings from 2021, both women say more needs to be done now.

"I call on other agencies to follow suit and recognise us as the important region we are," the Mayor said.

"We are the third-largest council area in NSW by population, and growing. We are big enough to be recognised as our own region."

Even on Central Coast Business Review's business investment prospectus for 2019-20, the area is referred to as "Sydney's Central Coast".

The departments of health, education and the Bureau of Meteorology all fail to recognise the Central Coast as its own entity.

That creates many issues, including in the ongoing fight for the region's own palliative care hospice.

Ms McBride told federal parliamentParliament on November 25 that "locals strongly identify with the Central Coast as the place they live".

She said Central Coast Council had a population of more than 340,000 residents (expected to rise by 75,000 by 2036) who all deserved clearer emergency warnings.

Just two days later she was again calling for the region to be viewed as a whole, this time in relation to road safety as she spoke of a government-promised $70 million road package.

Welcoming the funding for the area which the NRMA has named as having "one of the biggest transport infrastructure backlogs in NSW", she questioned why 90 per cent was earmarked for projects south of Wamberal in the Liberal-held electorate of Robertson.

Just 9.2 per cent will go to Dobell which is "the part of the Central Coast earmarked for significant population growth over the next 20 years".

With more fires threatening the Coast and a dangerous summer ahead, it is important that residents know that warnings for the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter can apply to them.

Residents are also encouraged to download and use the RFS Fires Near Me mobile phone app, and to look for the latest fire advice and preparation information on the RFS website at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.

Follow @nswrfs or @NSWRFSCentralCoast on Facebook or listen to local radio, particularly the ABC for emergency information.

For seniors on bushfire-prone land, the AIDER (Assist Infirm, Disabled and Elderly Residents) program is a free, one-off service available by phoning 8741 4955.

Work can include clearing gutters, trimming vegetation and removing leaf and tree litter and long grass.

Central Coast Council is also urging residents to continue water-saving efforts delaying water restrictions under the "Live to 150L" campaign launched in September, with Mangrove Creek Dam now at 53 per cent.

As well as limiting your personal water use to 150L per day, water wise rules apply to outdoor use, including watering the garden before 10am or after 4pm.

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