Thursday, February 22, 2024

Yarra Ranges mayor calls for storm cleanup support

Yarra Ranges Council is calling on the Federal Government to provide greater support for communities within Yarra Ranges that were impacted by the 9 June storms.

Council said the conservative estimated cost of recovery from the storm event was $65 million, with secondary impact assessments expected to see that figure increase significantly.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Fiona McAllister said the scale of the widespread damage inflicted on homes, buildings and public assets including roads, water, gas and telecommunications infrastructure had never been experienced in the region before.

“The recovery from this storm event could take up to three years, and we are still uncovering new challenges and hurdles as the full-scale impact of the event becomes clearer,” Mayor McAllister said.

“We are appreciative of the joint State and Federal funding delivered so far, for Bushfire Recovery Victoria to assist residents with clearing trees from private properties that have been damaged.

“However, there remains a huge financial gap in resourcing and support equally many tens of millions of dollars even by conservative estimates.

“We simply can not do this alone and need other levels of government to commit money and resources to support our communities. The majority of our residents fall outside of the eligibility criteria for the current funding program, and Council faces the enormous and urgent job of cleaning up debris ahead of future weather events and the next bushfire season.

“Our recovery team is helping residents and businesses to get back on their feet, through business support, planning and rebuilding assessments, road and parks works, fire season preparedness, and community wellbeing programs. But again we cannot do this alone. We need the State and Federal governments to step up their support, or we risk having to divert resources from other critical community services and infrastructure.”

Mayor McAllister said Council was also calling on the Federal Government to address telecommunications issues as a matter of priority, given 34 communities lost mobile and NBN service during the storm. Almost two months later, NBN service is yet to be reinstated in some parts of the hills.

“The telecommunications outages were extremely distressing. During and after the storm, many residents were unable to contact 000 for assistance, unable to access emergency information or even reach out to their loved ones,” the Mayor said.

“Mobile phone service is vital in an emergency, and the consequences of no service can be catastrophic. We’ve been working with our community over the last 12 months to understand how we can strengthen telecommunications in our region, but we urgently need the Federal Government to drive improvements across 000 and NBN services now.”

She also highlighted the huge toll that the storm has taken on local businesses, compounding the impact felt from multiple COVID-19 lockdowns and resulting in a huge downturn in visitation to the region.

“Yarra Ranges is a hugely important part of the state’s, and indeed the country’s, tourism industry.”

“We attract over 7 million visitors each year and generate $620 million annually for the state, but the storm on top of the lockdowns has meant that many of our amazing local businesses are now struggling to stay afloat.

“We need targeted support, including financial support, that drives local tourism so our businesses can remain open, our local people can remain in their jobs, and we can maintain the significant contribution our region makes to the local, state and national economies,” she said.

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