Saturday, April 13, 2024

Yarra Ranges calls for clarity on storm clean-up cost

Yarra Ranges Council has called on the State Government to provide clarity and certainty regarding its promise of funding support to clean-up after June’s flood and storm event, as the municipality continues to count the enormous damage cost. 

Council has written to Emergency Services Minister, Jaclyn Symes, to outline its concerns that despite multiple discussions, pleas and business cases put forward, Council is paying the price of the massive clean-up alone.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Fiona McAllister said Council had fast-tracked some of the clean-up work, on the understanding that State Government would provide financial support after the devastating weather event.

“With such extensive storm and flood damage, a looming fire season and the need to prepare for the reopening of Victoria in November after tough COVID19 restrictions, we’ve just gotten on with the job,” Mayor McAllister said. 

“Generally, costs for these works have always been recoverable from natural disaster funding, but our growing concern is we are yet to receive confirmation the funds we have spent will be reimbursed and that further funding to support the myriad of other recovery works will be provided.

“It’s no secret that the savage June 9 storm and flood was like nothing the State has seen before in terms of the scale of loss and damage, and the complexities of clean-up efforts.

“It’s important for our communities to see progress and to feel assured of support for a more positive future.”

She said while Council has gotten on with the clean-up, the impacts of such a large and devastating event were well beyond Council’s resourcing and financial capacity.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Fiona McAllister.

“While Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s dangerous tree and case manager programs provided much needed support to residents who had experienced significant damage to their homes as a result of the storms, these programs have really only dealt with a small fraction of the carnage from the storm,” the Mayor said.

“We require significant assistance from both the State and Federal Government, and we need confirmation around what assistance will be made available.” 

Mayor McAllister said Council required clarity and certainty so it could plan for the municipality’s longer-term future.

Estimates captured in Council’s draft Financial Plan are that the recovery effort will cost approximately $55 million. 

Council can claim certain costs under the State and Federal Government Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.  Council has estimated it will receive support of around $28 million under the joint disaster recovery arrangements. This would still leave Council $27 million out of pocket, Mayor McAllister said.

However, this has not been confirmed and the delayed nature of the reimbursements puts Council at risk of depleting cash reserves, she said.

“To date, Council has only had confirmation of $3.5 million in funding from the Council Support Fund to fund positions within the Recovery Directorate,” she said.

She said that with the challenges of the storm recovery coupled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the municipality’s long-term financial sustainability was dependent on securing financial support.  

“This disaster came on top of successive pandemic-related lockdowns that have had enormous impacts on businesses and communities.”

“Without support, we will need to make some difficult decisions to either reduce operational and capital expenditure so that we can deliver recovery outcomes, or we need to reduce what we deliver in the recovery space.

“The storm may be over, but the clean-up is not, and the current level of support offered is not tenable or financially sustainable for Yarra Ranges.

“With another fire season looming, we need the State Government to commit to its promise of clean-up support, and to provide Council and the community with clarity, certainty and confidence that we won’t be left behind,” the Mayor said.

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