East Gippsland Shire Mayor Cr John White will request both the State and Federal governments to prioritise local contractors and businesses as the region starts its recovery from the devastating bushfires.
Cr White said the major clean-up of the bushfire-affected properties is yet to start, due to a combination of persisting fire threat and limited road access.
“We have many resources, including the Australian Defence Force, on the ground making areas safe and accessible,” Cr White said.
“As soon as a clean-up program is announced, I urge government to offer our local contractors and businesses the opportunity, in the first instance, to be part of local clean up and associated works.
“It is incredibly important for morale, families, communities and our economy that local contractors and businesses are a key part of the recovery and reconstruction process,” Cr White said.
“By prioritising local contractors and businesses in recovery works as instigated by government will ensure local employment opportunities. This will send a further strong message of support to bushfire affected communities,” Cr White said.
The Mayor thanked both levels of government for their support of the entire community during the current bushfire emergency.
“Both levels of government have been incredibly supportive of the East Gippsland community. What we have seen is a fantastic response by all agencies working together, and of course our communities standing strong in the face of such adversity,” Cr White said.
“We remain in response and relief mode however such is the nature of this disaster we also have communities who are now in recovery. Our staff have going above and beyond to provide the relief into communities and have also set the wheels in motion for what will be a long, community-driven recovery.
“There is a real sense of all levels of government wanting to work together in the emergency, and to continue that well into recovery without the red tape.”
Cr White welcomed the Federal Government’s new National Bushfire Recovery Agency, which will include an initial $2 billion for a national bushfire recovery fund to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the fire-front has passed.
“The $2 billion will go some way to helping start the recovery process and we look forward to further Federal and State government announcements of funding and support as the bushfire emergency unfolds, winds down and as we move through the various stages of recovery across our entire shire,” Cr White said.
Cr White also welcomed the announcement of the new Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), which will be focused on the needs of Victorian communities.
BRV will begin work immediately, across a range of priorities from the immediate clean-up and ensuring the health and wellbeing of residents and farmers, to longer-term work to help local communities and local economies, such as the agricultural and tourism sectors, get back on their feet.
Cr White welcomed the establishment of Community Recovery Committees to ensure locals have a voice throughout this process, and said Council would be, and needed to be, at the table on behalf of East Gippsland.
“It is important for all communities affected by bushfires that the recovery includes locals. The involvement of local communities is the best way to help ensure that what is provided by government is what is actually needed,” Cr White said.