Residents say Newcastle bypass land at New Lambton Heights a fire risk

DEAD WOOD: Brett Hill with one of the Blackbutt Reserve trees he fears could be blown onto busy Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, across the road from his house.

DEAD WOOD: Brett Hill with one of the Blackbutt Reserve trees he fears could be blown onto busy Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, across the road from his house.

NO ACCESS: Brett Hill with an overgrown part of his yard he says his landlord, Roads and Maritime Services, had locked off before he moved in.

NO ACCESS: Brett Hill with an overgrown part of his yard he says his landlord, Roads and Maritime Services, had locked off before he moved in.

TENANTS of houses resumed for the Rankin Park to Jesmond section of the Newcastle by-pass say the overgrown area is a bushfire hazard waiting to explode.

Adding to their woes, one woman has found two snakes – one apparently a venomous brown snake – on the concrete in front of her house, which she said was overgrown with vegetation when she moved in a few months ago.

FIRE BREAK: Recently mowed area behind overgrown Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, properties owned by Roads and Maritime Services. Pictures: Ian Kirkwood.

FIRE BREAK: Recently mowed area behind overgrown Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, properties owned by Roads and Maritime Services. Pictures: Ian Kirkwood.

Roads and Maritime Services, which owns the strip of houses near where McCaffrey Drive meets Lookout Road at New Lambton Heights, says it’s up to the tenants to maintain their properties.

But tenants say their properties were already overgrown when they moved in, and that RMS and Newcastle City Council, which also owns the adjacent Blackbutt Reserve and other land in the area, have been passing the buck on who should do the big clear-up work.

Brett Hill, who moved into one of the Lookout Road properties about a year ago, said on Friday that with the homes to eventually be bulldozed for the bypass, nobody was spending money on maintenance.

He said a dirt track behind their properties that acted as a fire break had recently been mowed but otherwise the bush around their houses was getting wilder all the time.

He said RMS had locked off part of his yard which was overgrown when he got there and now full of double head-high lantana.

On the other, eastern, side of Lookout Road, Mr Hill said a row of dead trees that blew around “perilously” in high winds and were also an “accident waiting to happen”.

“We’ve all complained to the council, because the trees are in Blackbutt, but nothing happens,” Mr Hill said.

RMS plans for the $280-million fifth and final section of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass show the nine homes would be razed to make way for an interchange at the southern or Rankin Park end of the bypass.

Mr Hill said RMS started buying up the properties more than a decade ago, and recently finalised its last purchase.

Questioned by the Herald, RMS insisted it did look after the area, “generally” doing maintenance work four times a year, keeping a “minimum 20-metre buffer” behind the rear fence line.

It removed vegetation and trimmed trees “if they pose a bushfire risk”, with a round of maintenance “scheduled to take place next month”.

Although yards and gutters were the responsibility of tenants it “occasionally” did this to avoid “the danger of having tenants on ladders and the roof”.

To ensure it was “managing the asset protection zone correctly” it engaged NSW Rural Fire Service for an independent assessment.

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