Kangaroo Island Council discusses bushfire funding, water, native vegetation at January meeting

Eight councillors and mayor Michael Pengilly vote on an issue at the Kangaroo Island Council meeting on Tuesday.
Eight councillors and mayor Michael Pengilly vote on an issue at the Kangaroo Island Council meeting on Tuesday.

The KI Council at its January meeting on Tuesday voted to set up Section 41 committee to oversee the allocation of the $2.3 million donated so far to the Mayoral Bushfire Fund.

The meeting started out with a one-minute silence for Dick and Clayton Lang killed in the fire on Jan. 3.

Mayor Michael Pengilly recognised the hard work of all council staff and acknowledged losses suffered by councillors Sam Mumford and Rosalie Chirgwin.

He also thanked everyone that had donated to the relief fund. Clr Mumford thanked the CFS and Parks firefighters, Army and in particular the farm fire units for their work.

The bushfire fund allocation committee will consist of the mayor, councillors Shirley Pledge and Peter Tiggemann, local independent resident Peter Murch and independent accountant Austin Taylor from Adelaide.

While the committee will already meet this Thursday, clr Mumford said there were dire needs right now on the fireground that needed to be funded, such as fuel for generators.

He said funds needed to start flowing now. Mr Pengilly agreed and said hopefully the committee could start allocating funds immediately.

Council also had some discussion about the impact on the fire on the budget. Needs were from everything from skip bins and camping concessions for displaced residents.

CEO Greg Georgopoulos said bushfire-related expenditures would be kept separate for possible compensation by the State. Rate relief for fire affected properties was also discussed.

While the CFS declared the Ravine fire "contained" at 12.30pm, during the meeting, Clr Mumford said there was still active fire on his property northwest of Parndana and many places elsewhere, so he was very concerned about hot, windy conditions this week.

The KI Council on Tuesday also heard water remained a big concern, along with many other fire-related issues.

Clr Sam Mumford said Middle River reservoir was down to 7.8 metres from a high of 9.8 metres and supply ceased at 3 metres.

He was making available his own large dam available while SA Water was also accessing the Macgill plantation dam.

Mayor Michael Pengilly confirmed water was the number 1 vital issue and that the Army was desalinating water at Penneshaw and also bringing in water from the mainland. The water situation could bring forward the pipeline project to Penneshaw.

The KI Council audience including independent local represanrative Peter Murch, who will serve on the bushfire fund committee.

The KI Council audience including independent local represanrative Peter Murch, who will serve on the bushfire fund committee.

The council also discussed native vegetation clearing and the need for more hazard reduction and clearing in parks, but narrowly decided against seeking legal action about the issue. The vote was 4-4 on at least one other vote too.

Clr and CFS firefighter Sam Mumford, who was on the fire front on the West End Highway at the time, said the firestorm on Jan. 3 was unstoppable once it escaped the national park.

He said no amount of clearing or hazard reduction would have stopped the fire that burned through ground scorched only days before by previous fires. He showed the councillors photos of the terrifying fire front advancing eastward.

Mr Pengilly said there would be Coronial inquest and other reviews, but he said things needed to change when it came to regulation.

Clrs Mumford and Bob Teasdale said the council and community needed to unite to get through the crisis. Council passed a motion to support a University of Adelaide study into KI's bushfire resilience.

The council meanwhile passed a motion regarding a Tweet by the mayor relating to climate change and former US president Barrack Obama.

The motion was that council acknowledged the comment upset many, but while it was not the view of the council, elected members were entitled to personal comments.

Mr Pengilly said the ADF was planning a big celebration at the Parndana Oval on Feb. 8 featuring an Army band, singer John Schumann and possibly some footy stars, with catering for up to 3000 people.

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