Saturday, February 14, 2009

seven days on…

Community Meeting in Warburton
Sunday 15 Feb at 6pm
Mechanics Hall
Warburton Hwy, Warburton
MEL REF 290 B4

I attended the community meeting in Powelltown last Wednesday. The hall was packed with over 200 community members eager for information about the fires in the Bunyip region. The DSE were able to provide an update, whilst the CFA spoke about what residents need to consider if confronted by bushfire under the CFA policy of leave early or stay and defend. These agencies are doing a tremendous job keeping our community informed.

Last night I was up in Healesville at a community meeting there, around 200 locals were there including a contingent of local traders concerned about the ongoing viability of their businesses.

Still the fires burn in Yarra Ranges and our community is living with the stress of the impact they have. I have been to many community meetings where the enormity of this disaster is still being revealed.

The bushfires have been devastating in our region, as they have across Victoria. The response to this tragedy has been overwhelming. Help is coming from all sectors of the community, from other municipalities, from aid agencies, from the church community, from emergency services, from government agencies, from banks and insurers, from residents and businesses, local and afar. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit and am very grateful for the many direct offers of assistance I have received from across the community.

From all sectors across Australia there has been a massive effort to fundraise for victims of the bushfire. Already there have been many local bushfire fundraising efforts, the most recent one today in Belgrave, where Bill the Butcher donated the all proceeds of his Saturday morning sausage sizzle to bushfire victims ($2,285).

The Kallista Tearooms threw open their doors last Wednesday. I, along with hundreds of locals, packed the tearooms keen to help with fundraising efforts, many donating much more than the cost of their meal. Kallista Tearooms, using donations of food from local traders and labour donated for free were able to donate all money raised to the bushfire appeal, a hefty $10,500.

Selby Primary School held a gold coin free dress day, where the students raised $3,400. People’s willingness to help out has been inspirational and the funds will greatly assist those people in need.

My heartfelt thanks go to all who have assisted, your support is very much appreciated.

In response to the emergency the shire has formed a recovery committee to coordinate the long-term process of community recovery, including assistance with access to emergency relief grants, counselling, material aid and other personal support services.

Among a range of actions to support people affected by the bushfire council is:

· Waiving rates for the 2008/09 rates period on houses that have been destroyed by the fires. In addition any money already paid as instalments for the 2008/09 rates period will be refunded to affected residents.

· Providing access to special payment arrangements for ratepayers who have lost other buildings or infrastructure on their properties or sources of income from those properties, including crops or stock, or who have become unemployed because of the impact of the fires.

· Providing free of charge to owners and their insurers copies of construction plans of any property affected by the bushfires to help support the rebuilding process. (Records are available dating back to the mid 1960s.)

· Providing a fast track planning permit process for fire-affected properties with fees being waived.

· Assisting residents with supplies for livestock. Residents requiring hay, stock feed, fencing, stock water troughs and temporary agistments can phone 9294 6125. Donations of these supplies can also be made by phoning this number. Owners of livestock can also access hay at the Healesville and Yarra Glen Relief Centres.

· Residents requiring temporary accommodation for domestic pets can take them to the Victorian Animal Aid Trust in Killara Road, Coldstream.

· Assisting in clearing and making local roads safe to help restore services, infrastructure and access into affected areas.

· Providing property assessments for residents whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by the bushfires, including inspections of water tanks and septic tanks. Staff from the shire’s building department will also conduct inspections of land to assess hazards and safety issues. Residents who are able to return to their properties can organise an inspection by phoning 9294 6133 or 9294 6415.

· Offering asbestos kits, which include disposable overalls, P2 masks, gloves, strong garbage bags and sealing tape. The kits are available for residents whose homes may have contained asbestos. Kits can be collected from the Healesville and Yarra Glen Relief Centres and the shire’s Lilydale Community Link.

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