Australia — THE Baillieu Government has watered down a key proposal of the bushfires royal commission to buy back properties in areas of extreme fire risk. A buyback plan announced yesterday will apply only to those who lost their homes on Black Saturday, and not other risky areas around the state.
The royal commission recommended a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing development in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk.
It said priority should be given to land that had an “unacceptably high bushfire risk and on which dwellings were damaged or destroyed by the 2009 bushfires”.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said yesterday this recommendation was referring to areas affected by Black Saturday, not the whole state.
“Recommendation 46 related to, very particularly, those areas where we had suffered the consequence of the bushfires,” he said.
In their recommendation, the royal commissioners made no reference to areas where it should apply.
Two further reports released this year did not limit recommendation 46 to Black Saturday areas.
Recommendation 46 to buy back properties had been rejected by the former Brumby government.
Under the scheme announced yesterday, principal places of residence destroyed during the bushfires of early 2009 may be bought back.
The houses must have been within 100m of a heavily forested area and rebuilding must not have started.
“This is an entirely voluntary scheme. There is absolutely no obligation upon any land owner to participate in it,” Mr Ryan said.
More than 500 properties could be eligible for the part of the $50 million pool.