$193m plan to rebuild fire areas unveiled

$193m plan to rebuild fire areas unveiled

17 October 2009

published by www.theage.com.au

Australia — Community facilities, schools and recreation areas are the centrepiece of a $193 million two-year plan to rebuild in Victoria’s bushfire-devastated areas.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier John Brumby announced the plan at Flowerdale Primary School yesterday.

Developed in consultation with community recovery committees, the plan includes funding for community halls and centres, counselling, temporary accommodation, parks and gardens and economic stimulus.

Mr Brumby said the package would build on the $867 million already spent on the recovery.

”[This package] really represents the next step in what’s been a very big and a very complex rebuilding and recovery process,” he said. ”I believe that we’ve achieved an enormous amount, but that’s not to say there’s not a lot still to do, there is.”

In Flowerdale, the community recovery committee put forward a number of projects for funding, including an early childhood centre at the primary school and park and recreation facilities.

John Burgess, from the Flowerdale recovery committee, said the infrastructure in the package was something the community had wanted for many years.

”We were always short on infrastructure here, we’re a small town. [But] we’ve got a strong community and our consultation process has worked very effectively,” he said.

Christine Nixon, the head of the Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority, said communities had put forward more than 900 projects.

”In this plan we cover about 90 of those projects, and then on a rolling process with the fund and with other funders they’ll be rolled out over time,” she said.

Mr Rudd said the scale of the task was daunting but communities would be given every support.

”For so many people this is such an emotional journey … The loss of family, the loss of friends and the loss of loved ones and then the very difficult task of rebuilding,” he said.

”Brick by brick, house by house, school by school, community by community, we will be there from the beginning to the end to make sure that these communities are rebuilt.”

Mr Brumby acknowledged criticism of the speed of the rebuilding process, but said doing it properly took time.

”We could have easily put things back just the way they were, but that’s not what the communities wanted,” Mr Brumby said.

For 12-year-old Melissa Daniell, school captain at Flowerdale Primary, the past eight months have been tough.

”There were 30 houses on my street and there are only three left and mine is one of them. Both my next-door neighbours houses burnt down … My two best friends lost their homes,” she said. ”I wish my life would go back the same, but it can’t.”

The largest chunk of the funding, $117 million, is provided about equally by the state and federal governments, while $56 million comes from the appeal fund and $20 million from outside donors.

■Volunteer firefighter Jarred Brewer, 20, sobbed yesterday as he was sentenced to youth detention for lighting fires in the hope his brigade would be called out to fight them.

The Melbourne County Court was told Brewer had lit three bushfires north of Melbourne and made more than a dozen hoax emergency calls between May 2008 and January this year.

The Darreweit Guim Country Fire Authority volunteer was sentenced to two years and 48 weeks in a youth justice centre. His offending ended days before Black Saturday.

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