• Tony Bosworth

Kurrajong Heights Bowling Club's $800,000 grant – here’s what it will be spent on…

By far the biggest winner, at least in monetary terms, of the latest round of government bushfire grants is Kurrajong Heights Bowling Club, but what exactly is the $800,000 they’ve been handed going to be spent on?

Essentially it will go towards upgrading the Bowlo’s facilities to ensure it’s an effective bushfire staging area. In part this has come out of the burn over situation which hit Bilpin region on December 15 2019. A burnover is when fire is all around and there is no clear escape route.

“In 2019 we lost our Christmas to bushfires and in 2020 we lost Christmas to grant writing,” says resident Helen Foulis whose home burnt down. “It took 45 volunteers to complete 60 pages of a funding application for bushfire money,” she said.

Unfortunately the long hours took their toll, with a simple mistake made when submitting the grant leading to rejection.

The Bowling Club had been making applications for bushfire funding to upgrade the facility with a permanent continuous water supply, storage tanks and fire hydrants, so NSW Fire and Rescue trucks can refill with water, plus upgraded facilities so firefighters don’t have to rest in the dirt car park.

But the quest for funding has been far from easy.

“Our application was initially rejected and while we were disappointed, we thought there must be communities who have got much greater need than us. Then we were pork barreled for $300,000 dance lessons and we knew something was wrong,” claims Lionel Buckett, current Chairman of the Bowling Club.

All smiles - past chairman of Kurrajong Heights Bowlo, Dr Billy Gruner, and current chairman Lionel Buckett

Hawkesbury Council community services agency Peppercorn Inc helped allocate $300,000 of bushfire grant money to provide dance events and what they call "therapeutic supports" to the bushfire impacted areas of Bilpin, Colo, and St Albans from Resilience NSW. That situation received widespread publicity through the media.

A statement to the Post from Peppercorn said, "Peppercorn saw merit in the Social Dance Project and its applicability to the communities we support so the Board approved the auspice arrangement.

"Peppercorn applied for the grant as the auspice agency on behalf of the [dance] partnership. The vast majority of the application was prepared by the partnership, with Peppercorn reviewing and submitting the final paperwork as required by an auspice agency.

"The grant itself is a joint grant from state and commonwealth funding, administered through Resilience NSW.

"Peppercorn is directly funded for the Project as the auspice agency. Our involvement ongoing is to administer the funds as per the approved Project guidelines from Resilience NSW, to ensure milestones are met."

“We started investigating how we ended up with dance lessons when we needed water to help us better manage the next bushfire,” resident Lichell Maris told the Post.

“What we found out we put into a video called SOS SCOMO that 65,000 people have viewed. We did this because we wanted other communities to know how unfair the bushfire funding grants were,” she said.

“It was difficult, Council, Peppercorn and Resilience NSW didn’t want to talk to us,” says resident and local business owner Kooryn Sheaves.

“We worked our way up to the Office of the Commissioner of Resilience, Shane Fitzsimmons, and got a meeting with him just before Christmas after the Sydney Morning Herald and 2GB Radio aired our story. We asked him to prioritise permanent roadside water for bushfire fighting to make our community more resilient and help keep fire out of the Western Sydney basin.” said Ms Sheaves

“In February we read in the Hawkesbury Post that our application was successful, and we haven’t stopped smiling since,” said Mr Buckett.

“The lesson we learnt from this is making noise gets your community needs heard,” he said.

The grant is through the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants scheme and will be spent on the following items to upgrade the Kurrajong Heights Bushfire Disaster Management Staging Area.

Here’s the list of items being funded from the $800,000 grant:

  • Install a water bore - $33K

  • Construct two 100,000 litre in-ground concrete tanks fitted with RFS and NSW Fire Rescue attachments - $52K

  • Sealing of the Club car park - $127K

  • Lighting to allow NSW Fire Rescue trucks to refill at the Club as well as RFS trucks - $9K

  • Fencing scaffolding and WHS compliance - $33K

  • Remove asbestos roof and replace - $31K

  • Removal of asbestos wall cladding and replace - $70K

  • Install solar cells and battery to ensure power supply during disaster periods - $61K

  • Construction of verandah deck next to the car park to shelter firefighters and community members during emergencies - $123K

  • Renovate toilets and install disability toilet and ramp - $63K

  • Renovated kitchen and cool room to comply with health standards to feed people during an emergency - $76K

  • Bushfire mitigation systems and landscaping of the construction zone - $59K

  • Contingency fund - $45K

  • Project management fund - $29K

The funds will be spent using local contractors and suppliers within the Hawkesbury local government area and construction is expected to commence immediately the Club receives the funds.

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