Australia — THE Victorian government has bought 116 properties destroyed in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires at a cost of $25 million, to protect communities in high fire risk areas.
By the end of the week, the government will have settled on 114 properties and the final two are in the last stages of the process, under a buy-back scheme recommended by the bushfires royal commission.
The properties will now be cleared and offered for sale to neighbouring landowners to use for grazing or an additional bushfire buffer.
Those kept in government hands will be kept cleared and some will be considered to become part of Crown land.
But as the land has been deemed an extreme fire risk, nothing will ever be built on it again.
Bushfire Response Minister Kim Wells said there was little joy in the process and it had taken many families a long time to make the decision to move and start again elsewhere.
“This is a really tough area and as you can imagine some of these families have had that land up there for a long, long time, there’s been some tragic, tragic incidents that have taken place on that land,” he said.
“The idea at the end of it was to make sure that we had a safer community, safer protection from fire.
“By buying that land back, turning it over to farm land or keeping it as Crown land or using it as community use but not allowing it to go back to forest or bush I think it’s the right way to go.”
Properties were bought at either their pre-Black Saturday or current market value – whichever was higher – under the conditions that it was a principal place of residence destroyed in the 2009 fires and it was within 100 metres of significant forest.
There were 198 applications for the buy-back, 138 were found to be eligible and 116 went through to settlement.