26 October 2023

Dozens of Malua Bay residents lose escape route from bushfires

| Zoe Cartwright
Join the conversation

Residents off Burri Road woke to this blaze near them on Monday. Luckily it was brought under control – but if it took off, they could have been trapped, due to the closure of South Bevian Road. Photo: Supplied.

Malua Bay families fear developers and the Eurobodalla Shire Council are playing a deadly game of hot potato with a local access road, as catastrophic fire conditions loom.

Residents of the southern end of Burri Road, and the adjoining streets, still vividly remember the fire that claimed homes and livestock on New Year’s Eve 2019.

“I woke up at 3 am and saw the line of fire creeping down the hill towards us,” one resident said.

“Our plan was to evacuate the next day – we just grabbed what we could, the animals, and got out.”

Belinda Morris packed up her kids and dogs and fled that morning.

With her husband unable to get home via the highway, and two small children, she knew she had no chance if she tried to stay.

“The neighbours next to us stayed and they saved our place, and we’re so grateful,” she said.

“I couldn’t risk my kids’ lives.”

READ ALSO New report shows parts of Far South Coast at higher fire risk as RFS urges residents to be ready

She left south via Bevian Road, which connects to George Bass Drive shortly before the North Rosedale turnoff.

If the fire began to creep down the hill today, she couldn’t do that.

The road has been closed by developers – or the council. No one will claim responsibility, and after months of promises to the community, it looks like no one will open the road either.

It leaves dozens of residents, from young families to retirees, with only one way out.

“If there was a fire on North Burri Road, six streets would be stuck,” Belinda said.

“We don’t have access to the beach, we can’t get anywhere.”

The closure of South Bevian Road

The closure of South Bevian Road has left dozens of Malua Bay residents anxious as catastrophic fire conditions loom. Photo: Supplied.

Since the Black Summer, Belinda has noticed most of her neighbours are far more proactive about keeping their properties bushfire ready, but with some backing onto State Forest there’s only so much they can do.

If a fire does break out, it has plenty of fuel.

“It’s bushier now than it was before the fires, because then we’d had 18 months of drought,” she said.

“No back-burning has been done in nearly four years, and with all the rain the last few years all these low-lying shrubs, little wattles and gum trees have sprung up everywhere.”

There are two concurrent developments taking place in Rosedale – Saltwater Estate and Elements.

As part of the surrounding roadworks, Bevian Road was closed in May and residents were told it would reopen in July.

The reopening date was moved back to August, then September, then 10 October.

It remains closed.

A representative of Armpell, the company responsible for the Saltwater Estate development said the closed section of Bevian Road didn’t belong to them, but an adjoining property owner.

The representative also said they would dedicate a section of private road to the Eurobodalla Shire Council, and referred to a map on their website – which appears to show Bevian Road.

Walker Corp is understood to be the developer behind Elements – they have been asked for comment, but did not respond.

A Eurobodalla Shire Council spokesperson said they were working with the developer, but as the road was private there was little the council could do.

“Council has been providing advice to the public based upon the best available information from the developer of the adjacent Rosedale subdivision,” the spokesperson said.

“Council has recently received advice from the developer’s legal advisors that has changed the situation and lengthened the timeframe in which the road will reopen to the public.

“Council is actively working through options to reopen the road as soon as practicable.

“Until this matter is resolved and a legal means of access to George Bass Drive is provided, the road will remain closed.”

The council advised residents to make their bushfire plans on the assumption that the road will be closed to the public.

READ ALSO What the bushfire brigade fears most – the call that never comes

Mrs Morris says she can’t understand the confusion over who is responsible for the road – or whether residents should expect to access it at all.

“We’ve lived here for seven years and always had access to that road,” she said.

“In that time the council has graded the road regularly, but now we’re told it’s privately owned.

“I don’t know who to believe and I don’t know how you get that information.

“Everyone gives you a different answer, then blames someone else.”

She has reached out to MP Fiona Phillips, who told her to reach out to state representative Dr Michael Holland.

His office told her last month that he would follow the matter up, and has not provided any further updates.

While residents get the runaround, they keep a nervous watch on fire conditions.

“We’ve already had a catastrophic fire day and plenty of extreme days,” Mrs Morris said.

“There’s been a fire in the Bega Valley that’s taken people’s homes already this season, and it’s only forecast to get worse.

“If the fire comes from the north, none of us will be able to get out.

“We’d just have to sit here and burn.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
cannedbeeria9:46 pm 26 Oct 23

What is it going to take to get this supposedly new and fresh Council to get off their backsides and DO SOMETHING?? Take resposibility! Will it take a bushfire and then subsequent legal action against the council? Will it take injury or lost lives? The residents of this area would have bought their new homes thinking theyh had decent access. All it would take is a bush lawyer to launch a class action, either against the council or against the developers.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.