Bushfire boost for local clubs


 Tuesday 13th January 2015: There will be a tricky new 9th hole later this year when the Springwood Country Club dam triples in size to cope with the next bushfire emergency.

View the Blue Mountains Gazette story.

Acting premier Troy Grant visited the Mountains last Wednesday handing over $80,000 to extend the golf course's dam to feed the fire planes and "improve readiness and responsiveness to the fires".Acting premier Troy Grant and Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage announce $80,000 in funding for the expansion to the Springwood Country Club dam last week.

Acting premier Troy Grant and Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage announce $80,000 in funding for the expansion to the Springwood Country Club dam last week.

"It's an area that's been identified by the Rural Fire Service and MPES [The Ministry for Police and Emergency Services]," Mr Grant said.

"The expansion of the dam at Springwood ... it was a critical and immediate investment, so that they have the capacity to use helicopters, to provide those facilities where water is most needed," the Dubbo MP said.

The club played a significant role during the October 2013 bushfire emergency, as well as Springwood Sports Club, which was given almost $40,000 for a portable emergency kitchen to provide meals for large numbers of evacuees and emergency services personnel.

"With summer bushfires occurring across the country, it is timely the community is reminded to be prepared, and these projects assist when a crisis strikes," Mr Grant, who is also the Minister for Hospitality, added.

Barri Morland, Springwood Sports Club chairman said their club was open "24/7 for almost nine days" providing sanctuary for several hundred displaced people and "using, for example, all the goods purchased for 100 guests for a wedding which had to be cancelled".

"We cooked whatever we had ... the club experienced financial difficulties because of our efforts within the community," Mr Morland said.

He said their current kitchen was "structured for a la carte and ordered meals, a lot of clubs have a bain-marie system" and the new portable kitchen would enable dishes like curries and beef stroganoff to be cooked in bulk and served in or just outside the club in an emergency situation.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, MP for Blue Mountains Roza Sage, as well as ClubsNSW officials were on hand for the announcements, with the commissioner adding the dam expansion would increase the safety and size of aircraft accessing it. The country club's dam "drained pretty quickly [during the 2013 bushfire emergency] and tens of thousands of litres were being relied upon in an hour," he said, with "hoses running across the golf course to supplement supply".

Blue Mountains Country Club president Phil French said they would not start extending the dam until after March, but planned to have it ready for the next official fire season.

Tripling the dam's size and removing one 30-year-old tree would see the 9th tee become "tricky" with golfers needing to drive their shots over the dam, he said.

"But I think it will improve the course," Mr French added.

The club would do preparatory earthworks and get quotes for the engineering of the dam and excavation, he said. "And we want to include back-up generator power and perhaps solar pumps," Mr French said.

"We don't want to touch the dam until this fire season is over just in case. It will definitely be ready for the next."

ClubsNSW spokesman Josh Landis said the country club's dam expansion was "a perfect example of how this funding will support the Rural Fire Service personnel in their roles, make their job a little bit easier, quicker and hopefully save houses".

Mrs Sage said she was "thrilled" by the expansion, meaning the sky planes would be able to access the dam water.

"Whether it was displaced residents taking shelter or fire-fighting helicopters making use of dam water to save lives and homes, our Blue Mountains clubs were there when we needed them".

It was a baptism by fire literally for Dubbo politician Troy Grant, who started his 10 days as acting premier with a call from fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at 6am Saturday a week ago, to discuss NSW troops heading to South Australia. Four days later, on January 7, he was side-by-side with the commissioner at the golf club to announce the major dam upgrade.

With just three months to go until the state election, Mr Grant, said the ClubGRANTS scheme would be offered annually if the Liberals were re-elected.

Asked about Mrs Sage's efforts for the electorate, he called her a "local champion".

"Her leadership during that [bushfire] period ... we all sat in envy of her, she did a great job, standing by her community."