Prioritise East Gippsland to support community-led recovery

East Gippsland Shire Council continues to work side-by-side with bushfire-impacted communities, supporting timely and appropriate community-led projects and initiatives.

Council’s role in advocating for funding allocations under the Regional Local Economic Recovery Stimulus (LERS) Program has supported some of the many great projects put forward in East Gippsland.

“The recent announcement of significant investment in 10 local projects is great news for our communities and we thank both the Commonwealth and Victorian governments for recognising the importance of these projects,” Mayor Cr Mendy Urie said.

However, the allocation to East Gippsland in comparison to the North East of Victoria has left Council surprised and disappointed, prompting Mayor Cr Mendy Urie to write to Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud and Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services Martin Foley seeking a commitment that East Gippsland projects are prioritised in future funding rounds.

“We are in direct and regular contact with Community Recovery Committee (CRC) representatives across our shire. What we are hearing is that there is concern from fire-impacted communities that the fear of missing out on competitive funding is exacerbating impacts on communities,” Cr Urie said.

“Some of our recovering communities are just not ready to apply for funding, but they should not be disadvantaged because of a competitive funding process.

“Council reinforces that funding should be based on need and when communities are ready. Our communities need confidence that funding will be available when they are ready, consistent with the focus on community-led recovery.”

During the development of the funding guidelines Council staff raised concerns about the process, the work required to apply, and the funding allocation process with Bushfire Recovery Victoria, the Department of Jobs, Precinct and Regions and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

“We were assured that allocations would be considered on merit and priority given to those communities most impacted by the fires. However, the funding has been distributed to give an even geographic spread, rather than focus on effected areas as the guidelines promised,” Cr Urie said.

“An example of this is a streetscape improvement in a ski resort that was not directly impacted by bushfires was funded but a similar streetscape improvement in Mallacoota, one of the most impacted communities in Victoria, was not.”

Council was a strong advocate for a process that allocated funding on a predetermined formula, like the Roads to Recovery and the recent Local Roads and Community Infrastructure funding.

“This is equitable and takes the competitive element away from recovery funding,” Cr Urie said.

“I acknowledge that there are further rounds of the community focused LERS to come and would ask that priority is given to East Gippsland and especially those flame impacted communities, in these future funding rounds. I look forward to future opportunities to work with the Commonwealth and State in supporting East Gippsland’s recovery.”

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