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$138 million Bushfire Package to revitalise communities

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A $138 million recovery and response package unveiled by the Bracks Government today will help rebuild, restore and equip bushfire-ravaged communities across Victoria for the future.

Premier Steve Bracks and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, John Brumby, announced the multi-million package in the north-east town of Whitfield, which came under threat from bushfires at the start of summer last year.

Mr Bracks said the package, outlined in the Ministerial Bushfire Recovery Taskforce’s final report, had both immediate and long-term goals.

“Communities in Gippsland, in the North-East and in South-West Victoria have battled the worst bushfires in living memory,” Mr Bracks said.

“In the North-East, the Great Divide fires burnt for 69 days, burning nearly 1.2 million hectares, or the equivalent of 10 million average-sized house blocks.
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“This package is about providing support to individuals, farmers, businesses and communities in the aftermath of these fires and at the same time looking further ahead, so that our bushfire-affected regions can not only recover but continue to grow.”

The package includes:

  • $24.4 million for essential infrastructure redevelopment including roads, bridges and iconic walking tracks;
  • $16.7 million for land recovery initiatives to help farmers and to regenerate natural resources;
  • $30.3 million to boost resources for the State Emergency Service (SES) to ensure it is well-equipped to continue providing rapid and effective response;
  • $34 million for the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and volunteer groups, including an $11 million grants program for additional equipment to emergency service volunteer groups, $9 million for 18 new CFA stations, $3 million to expand the Valuing Volunteers program, and
  • $11 million to replace and upgrade rescue and recovery equipment and upgrade training facilities for the Vic SES;
  • up to $22 million to significantly expand the State forest timber salvage program. The program will recover fire-damaged logs in eastern Victoria to assist fire-affected communities and moderate the impact of the fires on the long-term sustainable yield;
  • $10.8 million to support businesses and communities as they get back on track.
    Mr Bracks said because of the efforts, courage and resilience of emergency services, communities and individuals, Victoria had been able to overcome the worst fire-fighting conditions on record.

    “On behalf of all Victorians, the Government expresses its gratitude and appreciation to the enormous number of personnel and volunteers involved in fighting these fires,” he said.

    Mr Brumby, also Chair of the Ministerial Bushfire Recovery Taskforce, said the package had been developed after listening to people in fire-affected regions relay their bushfire experiences and outline their recovery priorities.

    “Today’s package continues the Bracks Government’s swift and targeted response,” Mr Brumby said.

    “Members of the Taskforce spoke directly with emergency services personnel, residents, business operators and local government about the best way to assist after the devastating impact these bushfires had on their communities.

    “Feedback was that rebuilding infrastructure, helping businesses to recover, reviving tourism and ensuring communities could move forward was vital.

    “This package includes practical on-the-ground support for communities, significant spending on walking track and road rebuilding projects that will drive the tourism industry forward, important initiatives to ensure both public and private land impacted by fire regenerates and importantly, ensures communities maintain involvement in the recovery process.”

    Mr Brumby said the final report outlined $111 million in operating budget expenses across four years and $27 million for capital expenditure.

    “This report acknowledges the huge effort of the many personnel and volunteers across numerous local councils and community organisations, government departments and agencies, in fighting the fires and supporting recovery,” he said.

    The Taskforce report includes: Essential infrastructure rebuilding

  • $8.9 million to re-open priority roads and rebuild bridges in parks and forests to provide access throughout the year, as well as access for land and fire managers;
  • $1.55 million towards the Mt Buller-Mt Stirling Road, providing all-year vehicle access to both mountains;
  • $1.22 million to the Jamieson-Eildon Road – sealing the dirt section of 14km of currently unsealed road resulting in the road circumnavigating Lake Eildon being fully sealed;
  • $200,000 for the Rocky Valley Dam “Round the Lake” Trail – including construction of a shared pathway linking Falls Creek to Wallace’s Hut in the Alpine National Park, via Rocky Valley Dam;
  • $6.755 million for urgent works to trap sediment and provide water quality monitoring, as well as longer-term works to protect stream sides and remove silt in rivers and streams;
  • $2.5 million to rebuild and replace visitor site assets in parks that were lost or damaged;
  • $1.27 million for fire severity mapping;
  • $60,000 to assist volunteer groups restore high country huts.

    Land recovery initiatives

  • $5 million to regenerate 3,500 hectares in fire-affected state forests;
  • $3 million for better pest control in parks, focussing on invasive and fire sensitive weeds;
  • $1.885 million to assist private land managers with pest plant and animal control across the next two years;
  • $1 million for a fox and wild dog bounty to decrease populations of predators for six months;
  • $1.816 million to assist land managers on private land with soil conservation programs to reduce the likelihood of short-term soil erosion and long-term environmental damage;
  • $830,000 to protect vulnerable ecosystems and rare and threatened species affected by fires;
  • $650,000 for mapping and protective works for previously unrecorded Indigenous sites;
  • $455,000 to monitor the recovery of populations of trout and native fish and to determine and carry out remedial fish stocking where appropriate;
  • $247,250 to assist the wine industry with research into the precise tolerance of grapes before smoke taint occurs for projects to assist vineyards and wineries meet current challenges;
  • $664,000 for a case management service to assist farm families and businesses to recover;
  • $90,000 for specialist industry advice for farmers;
  • $28,000 for fencing insurance excess;
  • $120,000 for improved pastures on farms;
  • $36,000 to the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) to assist with fodder transport;
  • $100,000 for volunteer groups to rebuild fences;
  • $800,000 to determine sustainable harvest levels of timber.

    Support for businesses and communities

  • $3 million to expand the Community Regional Industry Skills Program (CRISP) for additional training to enhance the skills of employees in fire-affected regions and industries;
  • $1 million for the rebuilding and refurbishment of community halls in bushfire-affected areas including; $200,000 to the Bairnsdale Racing Club and support to refurbish community halls in Merrijig, Tolmie and Gaffneys Creek in Mansfield Shire. Also in this package is $100,000 for the refurbishment and upgrade of community facilities and installation of a waste water main and watering system at Whitfield Recreation Reserve and $132,500 to upgrade the Allansford Community Hall;
  • $200,000 to Wellington Shire to assist Dargo and Licola in constructing a bore for each community as a solution to turbidity issues as a result of bushfires;
  • $15,000 for Lifeline
  • $50,000 for an information strategy for Gippsland.

    The Bracks Government has already announced significant measures to help fire-affected communities including:
  • a $4 million tourism recovery package for bushfire-affected areas of North-East Victoria and Gippsland, including $300,000 to rebuild the iconic Craig’s Hut and improve direction signage to fire-affected tourism destinations in and around Walhalla township, King Valley wine region, the Great Alpine Rd and Gippsland Lakes;
  • $1 million to open walking tracks by Easter;
  • $195,000 to re-open and re-build the Walhalla Railway;
  • $500,000 Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre (MECC) funding at Bairnsdale and
    Mansfield, Wellington, Alpine and Rural City of Wangaratta;
  • $700,000 contribution to the joint Commonwealth/State Community Recovery Fund providing small business grants;
  • $200,000 under Regional Development Victoria’s Business Continuity Program to provide one-on-one counselling to develop recovery strategies;
  • $480,000 for Community Development Officers in Gippsland and the North-East; and
  • Payroll tax exemption for employers with employees who volunteer as fire-fighters backdated to November 1,2006.
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    Written by Greg Naylor

    29 March 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Posted in media release

    Tagged with

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