Majors Creek residents are outraged at a decision to bulldoze a fire trail alongside a swamp behind houses in the village, which they say was without justification or consultation.
Even the local bush fire captain has described the location of the trail as "peculiar".
Peter Marshall, who owns a house that backs on to the creek, said the project was a farce of "government bumbling, wasted public money and disrespect for citizens and the environment", and deeply upsetting to locals.
The creek ran parallel to Seymour Street, and the fire trail was being built between the row of houses and the wetland. Large amounts of fill were being dumped into the water and soft soil banks were being cut through.
"Our back fence has been torn out and dumped in the water, adult trees debarked and soft soil banks made bare to erosion," he said.
The road was not suitable for a heavy fire-fighting vehicles and would trap light vehicles between a fire and a steep bank.
"So we now have a destructive, expensive, pointless road being built into a swamp," with landscape and property values damaged for a "misconceived and unneeded" project.
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority stepped in on July 19, telling the NSW Soil Conservation Service that the work has disturbed a large section of soil, and stockpiled soil and vegetation without any sediment or pollution controls to protect the creek.
The authority demanded an erosion management plan and pollution control measures by July 21, which a spokesperson said had now been provided. The authority was satisfied the plans addressed soil and erosion requirements, but would continue to monitor the work.
Local fire captain Richard Elliott said locals were "a bit puzzled" by the fire trail. The reedy area was not a particular fire hazard and there was access in any case from a paddock behind, he said. Given it was steep and boggy, it was taking "colossal" amount of rocks to make the road.
NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Chris Allen said the work to upgrade an existing fire trail and had been set out in a community protection plan for Majors Creek prepared by the Lake George zone bushfire management committee. The project was in the hands of NSW Crown Lands, which owned the land, he said.
Residents were surprised to find the bulldozers at work on July 13.
NSW Member for Monaro and deputy premier John Barilaro announced $188,500 funding for the fire trail on July 13.
Resident and garlic grower Annie Clarke said the trail was "crazy". She was concerned about biosecurity near the waterway, with fill and rocks being brought in to build the road.
"The first time I passed it I thought what the hell are they doing? It's a swamp, it'll never catch on fire. When I found out what they were doing I actually said do they have the right address? That's how nuts it is."
Questions have been put to the NSW Soil Conservation Service.