Colac Otway works with other councils to assist fire recovery

Published on 10 February 2020

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Colac Otway works with other councils to assist fire recovery

Colac Otway Shire Council is using its experience with the 2015 Wye River fire recovery to assist Towong Shire, as Councils from across Victoria work together to help fire-affected communities.

Colac Otway Development and Community Services General Manager Ian Seuren said Colac Otway had received a great deal of support from other municipalities following the Wye River fire and it was important that councils worked together to help communities recover and rebuild.

“Two weeks ago Council’s Fire Awareness Officer Tristan Crews went to Towong and helped with a range of things including organising contractors to help farmers dispose of dead animals,” Mr Seuren said.

“Council Emergency Management Coordinator Callum Fairnie has been providing support remotely on mapping of impacted properties and the use of the Crisis Works software.

“Colac Otway’s Planning, Building and Health Manager Doug McNeill is in Towong this week to assist with Strategic Planning to do the shire’s Secondary Impact Assessment.”

Speaking last week before he departed, Mr McNeill said that despite the time that had lapsed since the main damage from the fires, the secondary assessment had only just started because Towong, which is relatively remote, has had difficulty getting staff with experience to initiate that work.

“Secondary impact assessment work includes inspections by building surveyors, environmental health officers and arborists of the fire damage including destroyed and damaged structures.

“Key safety issues to arise from the damage will need to be identified, and public access will need to be managed. This information is also required to support Government grants to affected landowners.

“Communication with landowners concerning outcomes, the mapping of information for reports to various authorities and preparation for the clean-up of bushfire debris will also be needed.

“I will also be giving some advice on how they might prepare for dealing with people seeking to rebuild, and pass on advice regarding Colac Otway’s One Stop Shop approach and streamlined planning controls which Council put in place in response to the Wye River fires.

“Council was able to hold scheduled meetings with land owners and our One Stop Shop team to provide all encompassing assistance and advice to people.

“Among the challenges that Colac Otway faced following the 2015 fire was having enough people to deal with the huge number of inquiries from affected people and other agencies handling the recovery, while Council was still trying to operate as normal and provide all services to the unaffected communities in the shire.

“Council had to manage public access to the area because of the land instability, falling trees, asbestos and loose material such as iron roofing blowing around.

“Communicating effectively to keep all those affected updated was important, along with getting in quickly to assess damage to private dwellings and public infrastructure, so that strategies could be put in place to get recovery going,” Mr McNeill said.

“We also needed to get co-ordinated advice to people on what they needed to do to clear their debris and rebuild, while navigating all regulations.”

In partnership with the other councils in our region, Colac Otway Shire will continue to assist Towong and other councils impacted by the fires where possible to help their communities recover as quickly as possible.