East Gippsland Shire Council has set the wheels in motion for bushfire recovery across the municipality, while continuing to balance its bushfire response and relief efforts.
Chief Executive Officer Anthony Basford said the bushfire event, and Council’s response and relief effort, in conjunction with the emergency services and other agencies, is significant for East Gippsland.
“To everyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by these bushfires I would like to acknowledge how difficult this time must be. Your community and people around the world are thinking of you. I would also like to thank everyone for their can-do attitude, community spirit, patience and resilience,” Mr Basford said.
“We are going to need much more of that resilience, patience and community spirit as the recovery stages unfold. The recovery for our shire will be an unprecedented effort by everyone.”
Mr Basford said Council has been conscious of responding to community members most in need as a priority, through relief centres, provision of supplies, access to services (e.g. waste), and facilitating other external agencies for individual support.
“To ensure residents have a point of contact, Council has also been operating a 24/7 call centre, and has established a Bushfire Recovery Centre in Service Street, Bairnsdale, which will be open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm. You can also call the recovery centre on 5153 9500,” he said.
“A Mobile Recovery Centre will also be hitting the road from Monday, January 13 with the critical services those in smaller communities need. These centres involve multiple agencies and are a one-stop shop for those in need of support.”
Mr Basford said everyone must be mindful that some communities have been experiencing bushfires for almost two months and fires still pose a significant threat to many communities.
“Every community is at a different stage and has different priorities. We will continue to respond to the active bushfire situation, but rest assured our coordination of the recovery effort has begun,” he said.
“We’ve started a Recovery Committee to look at the high-level coordination of all agencies that are involved in recovery to ensure that we’re working together, all working towards supporting all our communities to recover. This includes Bushfire Recovery Victoria.
“Councillors have been very active in their own communities during this emergency and met for the first time together early last week to understand the complexities of the fires and what lies ahead.
“There are multiple things happening at the one time and councillors are across the issues their communities are facing, and will face, in coming weeks, months and even years. Councillors and staff are working on some of the key issues as a result of this disaster, including rates and valuations, planning permits, economic development etc. If a resident has a query, I encourage them to contact us.”
The Mayor, councillors and senior staff have been engaging with residents at community meetings across the shire since the fires really took hold.
“We know there are issues within communities that have not yet been resolved and I want to assure everyone that our staff are working as quickly as possible to resolve these,” Mr Basford said.
“There are some details we don’t know and aspects of the clean-up which hinge on announcements out of our control. However, work is happening behind the scenes and Council is in there batting for you.”
Keep to-to-date with Council’s relief and recovery efforts through updates in the local media, Council’s website and social media channels, and the Bushfire Community Newsletter. The newsletter is published three times a week by Council and is available online, in printed form in communities and by electronic subscription.
The Department of Health and Human Services Personal Hardship Assistance Program information line has been set up for the bushfires. This hotline – 1800 961 054 – provides information on the PHAP, including eligibility criteria and guidance as to where individuals and families can go for assessment.