Kempsey Council plans $1.4 million bushfire recovery program of works

Kempsey Shire Council has announced a range of recovery initiatives and works funded by the $1.417 million grant provided by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

The program includes work to Bellbrook and Willawarrin Halls, extensive works to the Willawarrin Rodeo and Sporting Grounds, community workshops on land care and disaster preparation, improvements for unmaintained Council roads and $200,000 in community grants.

Council are set to deliver a significant program of work that will involve multiple facets of the organisation, including the infrastructure services team, property and facilities, economic development and community development all of which is set to be coordinated by a new recovery role.

Developed in conjunction with the community and designed in direct response to the extensive engagement and consultation that Council has undertaken, the list of works are an example of the holistic strategic approach that the organisation is taking to all recovery planning.

Kempsey Shire Council General Manager Craig Milburn emphasised that this was just one component of Council’s recovery program and that these programs will be developed and delivered in parallel with the works funded through the additional $1 million drought funding, the $250,000 that Council has already received from the NSW Bushfire Community Resilience and Economic Recovery Fund and additional grant funding that Council is seeking.

“Crucially this entire project has been developed through a deep and ongoing level of engagement,” said Mr Milburn.

“This has involved numerous engagement events, ongoing conversations with the community and partner organisations, discussions with disaster recovery experts, as well as organic engagement through our extensive on-ground involvement right from the very start of the emergency.”

“The works funded through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency grant addresses many of the things that the community raised in our engagement, it also hands some control and power back to the community to drive their own recovery, such as through the $200,000 Bushfire Recovery Community Grants allocation.”

The program of works is structured around the recognised Office of Emergency Management framework that categorises actions into four streams of Built, Environment, Economic and Social priorities and is expected to deliver genuine and lasting recovery support to the whole community.

“The focus of the built program is on Bellbrook and Willawarrin, as their locations meant they were central locations both in the first days of the emergency as well as in the ensuing weeks and months of recovery,” said Director of Operations and Planning, Robert Fish.

“Bellbrook and Willawarrin Halls will both receive upgrades, as will the Willawarrin Showground.”

The program also includes a significant investment in repairing private roads that are not part of Council’s regular maintenance program.

“The road network to some of our more isolated communities was also badly damaged in the bushfires,” said Mr Fish.

“The planned maintenance work of roads not traditionally maintained by council will improve ability for emergency services to reach these homes and for the residents to travel safely into the nearest town of Kempsey.”

In an effort to give the community some certainty for the future, the education programs included in the program will assist people from all over the Shire to feel prepared and plan for a variety of emergency situations. Additionally, Council will work with Macleay Valley Landcare to help landholders to promote sought after landscape and wildlife recovery.

An injection of funds into marketing local businesses will provide direct support to local business, however the bulk of economic support will take the form of grants.

“Community-led recovery processes have been proven to achieve larger effects and develop more sustainable processes than interventions designed externally,” said Director of Corporate and Commercial, Stephen Mitchell.

“Through an allocation of $200,000 to community grants, Council will assist the community to drive their own recovery. To work together on passion projects or events that they will value. This approach has long term benefits, beyond the external delivery of assets, that are essential but hard to quantify, in terms of building the community’s capacity, confidence and control.”

Finally, one of the largest roles Council has had in the recovery process to date has been the hundreds of hours of one on one assistance provided by the recovery team, aiding and advocating for those impacted by the fires as the wrestle with the ongoing processes of recovery. This program ensures that dedicated human resources are on hand to help, to listen and to stand alongside the community.

“Council are extremely proud of the recovery program that has been developed and also that, despite all the challenges presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Recovery project has not lost focus, as evidenced by the recent coordination of the first accommodation pods in the state arriving in our local government area,” said Mr Milburn.

“Recovery is much larger than any one initiative, but Council is confident that the program that has been developed through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency grant will go a long way to ensuring our community emerges stronger.”

/Public Release. View in full here.