The natural beauty of Shady Hills in Bullsbrook, it’s undulating hills and outlook over Walyunga National Park nestled within a quiet cul-de-sac are inviting reasons to move in there. They are also the same features that make Shady Hills such a perilous place to live in the event of a bushfire.
Bullsbrook Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services Captain, Chris Unstead, explains.
“Access is very risky for us as firefighters in Shady Hills – there is currently only one way in and one way out. We were fortunate with this latest fire in that we had a lot of preparation time. People were given plenty of notice to evacuate so there wasn’t a risk of anyone being trapped.
“Where the risk has come in the past is when we’ve had the fire start at the bottom of the hill on the train line, or a lightning strike — then there is no warning.
“Depending on where the fire is, residents could get stuck in Shady Hills, with no option but stay and defend as best they can. This includes those who would ordinarily choose to leave because they know they are unable to defend.”
When the estate of Shady Hills was established, there were no specific guidelines for Planning for Bushfire which required a mandatory secondary access to the subdivision area. This requirement only came about in 2010, four years too late for Shady Hills. Residents have been fighting for a second access road for many years.
Notes from the City of Swan’s Ordinary Meeting of Council 4 July 2018 discussing a petition submitted by Shady Hills residents state: “The planning framework around bushfire protection is not applied retrospectively and if a second access is supported in Shady Hills View Estate then the City would also need to consider other similar rural residential areas in Gidgegannup (e.g., Tilden Park). This could be significant in costs and impact on future rates.”
Thankfully, after yet another massive bushfire threatened the area, common sense has started to prevail. In a statement released on 7 February 2021, the City of Swan say they now, “Fully support the construction of a second access route into Shady Hills Estate in Bullsbrook. With the current bushfires at the front of mind, we acknowledge the significance of achieving secondary access.
“For a number of years, negotiations have been underway with private landowners in the Shady Hills Estate around acquiring a portion of land to construct a second access road into the Estate. This has taken some time to finalise, however an agreement has now been made with the landowner.”
In further progress it was announced on Wednesday 3 March that a re-elected Labor government will provide $1.9 million dollars to the City of Swan to deliver a second access road.
Member for Swan Hills, Jessica Shaw MLA said, “We are all so thankful for the brave actions of our firefighters during the recent fires, and their incredible efforts to save Shady Hills Estate.
“Local residents and the City of Swan have raised access issues at Shady Hills with me, with the Wooroloo fires highlighting the risk of only having one road in and out of Shady Hills.
“I consulted at length with the Bullsbrook community, to ensure I reflected the community’s views in my advocacy. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to give me their perspective.”
The road will also help to manage an expected increase in traffic as a result of a new subdivision in the area.