Friday, April 26, 2024

Baw Baw Mayor asks Govts to keep promise on storm recovery

Baw Baw Shire Council has called on the State and Federal Governments to provide more support in the aftermath of the region’s June storm events.

Noojee and Walhalla in Baw Baw Shire’s north were both badly impacted by severe storms and floods that swept through Victoria in June.

Now, six months on and with local tourism demand swinging back into gear post-lockdown, the North Gardens Campground at Walhalla and the playground and carpark at Noojee remain unusable despite repeated Council attempts to secure the $200,000 in relief funding needed for rectification works, Mayor Danny Goss said today.  

With repeated applications refused, the sole option remaining to Council was to seek Category C funding. However, this final option brings no guarantee of success, no indication of timelines on the funding and no option to seek retroactive funding for works already carried out, he said.

“If you recall all the publicity that happened at the time of the storms, they all turned up. The politicians were here. The recovery agencies were here. There were promises everywhere. But now they’re gone,” said Mayor Goss.

“The campground at Walhalla is still closed and the playground and the carpark in Noojee are unusable. The playground was underwater and the carpark – which was brand new, paid for by Baw Baw Shire Council – is ruined. Can’t be repaired. It has to be completely rebuilt.

“But we can’t get any money out of the State or Federal Governments. We’ve got Christmas coming up, we’ve got tourism. We need to fix these assets.”

To meet eligibility, Council would have to delay any works to rectify storm impacted assets even further until the funds are received – and there is no indication of when that might be, even if they are successful, the Mayor said.

On Tuesday 9 November, Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes announced a $25.7 million package to support the ongoing recovery and rebuilding process across the state. The funding included $21 million to repair the arterial road network that was damaged in the floods and $320,000 to manage continued hazards, recover timber and ensure access for the timber harvest in state forests and adjoining land. However, there was no funding to rectify the $200,000 in damage to Council’s assets at the North Gardens Campground at Walhalla and the playground and carpark at Noojee.

“I want to put this on the record: I don’t think it’s fair at all for Council or the ratepayers of this Shire to cop $200,000 to fix this stuff that was caused by flooding of rivers and streams under the management of Government authorities. It’s not fair because that’s $200,000 that could be used by Council on another project somewhere else,” said Mayor Goss.

“The State and Federal Governments have gone missing and we want them to turn up. We want them to keep their promises. We want them to fix the assets that were damaged, and we want them to fix them as soon as possible.”

He said that in both Noojee and Walhalla there was already community concern over the delays and lack of progress at both sites. With strong community expectation that the damaged areas be reopened for the summer tourism season to aid recovery – not only from the storm but from COVID-related economic downturns – time is running out, the Mayor said.

“The lack of support from the State and Federal Government has been cause for growing disappointment and frustration in the region.”

“Baw Baw Shire Council is now calling on the State and Federal Governments to step up their efforts, fulfil their promises, and help get the embattled region back open for business in time for the summer season,” Mayor Goss said.

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