Volunteers to offer disaster relief

Caption image: Disaster Relief Australia members undertook chainsaw training at a fire-affected property at Budgeree recently, as part of a Latrobe City Council project to help the local community.

Volunteers are helping Latrobe City recover from the impacts of the Yinnar South bushfire that struck in March 2019 and also revitalise a popular tourism attraction.

The members of relief organisation Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) will remove fallen trees from private property and clear a section of the iconic walking route, the Grand Strzelecki Track.

DRA volunteers visited a property at Budgeree on Wednesday 9 December to train in the safe use of chainsaws before undertaking clean-up works, which will contribute towards their chainsaw certification. They plan to return in early January to complete more work.

The Yinnar South bushfire brought down many large trees on private land that are beyond the scope of landowners to remove; most of these trees are on slopes and at risk of rolling. DRA volunteers will cut and retrieve this timber, reducing the fire risk on these properties this summer.

DRA members plan to return in January to clear the Grand Strzelecki Track between Billy’s Creek at Jeeralang Junction and Tarra Bulga National Park at Balook.

The track has been a popular tourism attraction, linking Morwell National Park with Tarra Bulga National Park over 27km of trail that can be experienced in two days. However approximately two kilometres of track are now impassable due to fallen trees and blackberries.

“Latrobe City Council truly appreciates the assistance of volunteers from Disaster Relief Australia in undertaking such vital works that bring such relief to our landowners and also re-open a section of the Grand Strzelecki Track to visiting hikers again,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said.

“This will help restore tourism that underpins our local small towns, from the small corner shop to the local pub, which badly need all the support they can receive after the global pandemic. The track is a unique tourism opportunity for our municipality and surrounds.”

Annette Deppeler, Chair of the Budgeree, Jumbuk, Yinnar South Community Recovery Committee, said since the fire in March 2019, work has been focused on cleaning up fallen trees from roadside reserves and private properties.

“Unfortunately many property owners have not had the resources to remove or do anything with the many very large fallen trees,” she said.

“This has been a major issue for the Community Recovery Committee and property owners, and it is very pleasing to have Disaster Relief Australia come into our area to assist in the clean-up.”

DRA Team Manager Kyran Byrne said the visit enabled the organisation to train eight new chainsaw operators and provided an opportunity for experienced chainsaw operators to refresh their skills.

“In addition, we were able to check out some areas where we can collaborate on projects for the near future. Our volunteers are excited about coming back real soon,” he said.

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