Rebuild: Yarloop locals unhappy with $45m bushfire clean-up

Rebuild: Yarloop locals unhappy with $45m bushfire clean-up

19 October 2016

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Australia —  YARLOOP post office licensee Ron Sackville said distressed residents did not think the clean-up and recovery of the bushfire-ravaged town was a success after West Australian Premier Colin Barnett declared the process just about complete.

The town, about 100km south of Perth, was just about wiped out in a bushfire in January that killed two people and destroyed more than 180 homes.

The clean-up had now been disbanded after the most difficult such operation ever undertaken, Mr Barnett said.

Mr Sackville said less than 10 per cent of Yarloop’s population of 650 before the fire was currently living in the town.

People were angry that blocks where their houses had once stood had not been properly levelled by clean-up crews, meaning people could not rebuild without spending more of their own money.

Large areas near the centre of town along the rail line were potentially contaminated and overgrown because the clean-up was still to be negotiated with owners of that land, Brookfield Rail, while roads were full of potholes and damaged.

Mr Sackville said residents also remained traumatised due to stress and no counselling in the town had been organised until he had helped secure it himself.

“I had a terrible week last week when it reared it’s ugly head … I have had people coming into the shop and confronting each others issues,” he told AAP.

“The emotional distress people are feeling has been exacerbated by the length of the clean-up … there have been relationship failures and the actual impact on the community has been far greater than just damage to the buildings.

“I’d like a representative of the premier’s department to come down and see for themselves where we are at.”Mr Sackville said until now there had been no counsellors in the town for stressed residents, but he had helped organise for fortnightly free counselling from next week through the GP Down South group funded by Pinjarra Rotary.

The WA government and local Harvey Shire needed to better allocate resources to Yarloop in a clean-up estimated at costing $45 million and they needed agencies including the police to return so the town could function again, he said.

Mr Barnett said there had been an extensive consultation process including 180 interviews with various community members to come up with a package of options for Yarloop’s future.

“Proposed options include the construction of a new community centre as a cornerstone for the town, development of a light industrial zone to help stimulate economic activity and a workshops precinct to encourage tourism,” Mr Barnett said.

The premier said the clean-up was the most complex ever undertaken by the Government with more than 200 properties cleaned up and 60,000 tonnes of debris removed.


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