Red tape dries up Terry’s fire truck
RED tape has left Glenugie land owner Terry Purcell high and dry as he attempts to fill his makeshift fire tanker with 1000 litres of water ahead of a possible fire emergency.
Mr Purcell, 81, has equipped a steel-framed trailer with a water tank, pipes, hoses and a pump, which attaches to his tractor to fight fires in the area.
When he returned to his property after an extended period in hospital, he found his tank empty, the creek on his property, McPhillips Creek, dry and a wall of red tape preventing him getting a refill.
Concerned he needed permission, he contacted authorities to find out what he needed to do.
"I contacted Clarence Valley Council to see if I could go to Glenugie Creek and fill up," he said.
"They told me to contact the Department of Environment and Conservation, but they told me I needed to contact NSW Water.
"When I contacted them and told them what I wanted to do, the man I was talking to said because of legislation in place he couldn't give me permission."
Mr Purcell said he was told to wait for a fire emergency.
"I asked him if what he was saying was I would have to wait for something to burn down before I could do something about it and he said 'yes'," he said.
Mr Purcell said he could understand the need for rules to restrict taking water from water courses in a drought, but thought if he explained his position, there could be some sort of dispensation.
"They've been saying to people to prepare themselves for fires, but when I went to do something about it, all I got was rules to stop me," he said.
He said he had investigated buying water, but found he could only access a minimum of 5000 litres.
"I didn't want to do that," he said. "The simplest solution would be for me to tow the trailer to Glenugie Creek, which to my knowledge always has water, put my suction hose in and fill it up."
Mr Purcell loves nothing more than putting himself behind the wheel of some heavy machinery and helping out a neighbour.
When he moved to the area from the Hunter Valley in 2004 he brought a tractor and a bulldozer and other machinery.
"I've used the tractor to make small fire breaks and hooked up a slasher to the tractor to slash tall grass for a neighbour," he said.
"I've had the 1000-litre tank on my trailer and used it for putting out small fires and want to have it ready now in case an emergency arises."
Since investigating Mr Purcell's story, The Daily Examiner has found the red tape might be thicker than he thought.
NSW Water passed inquiries about Mr Purcell's case to the Natural Resources Access Regulator.
The NRAR website said: "the NRAR has been established under the Natural Resources Access Regulator Act 2017 to be an independent, transparent and effective water regulator with total responsibility for the compliance and enforcement of water laws in NSW".
A spokesperson for the regulator said it would look into the case and respond in two to five days. The Daily Examiner will publish its response when received.