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State Government of Victoria


Fire Recovery Unit Update - Edition 9

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March 2012, Edition 9

IN THIS EDITION

Health and wellbeing

Rebuilding support

A two page feature to assist you through the rebuilding process and the support services currently available to you, including:

Community support and meetings

Additional information

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Bushfire Communities Support Program

Bushfire Communities Support Workers provide a range of flexible services to assist people to manage personal recovery. Providing personal support and linking people into services, events and activities in their communities, support workers are available to residents who live in the shires of Yarra Ranges, Latrobe, Mitchell, Murrindindi, Alpine, Whittlesea and Nillumbik.

The BCSP Helpline can assist all bushfire-affected people with a range of enquiries concerning personal assistance, counselling, financial issues, employment, and health support.

Contact the Bushfire Communities Support Helpline on 1800 050 400 or visit www.dhs.vic.gov.au.

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EACH Social and Community Health

EACH Social and Community Health provides outreach counsellors and emotional support workers trained to respond to the needs of people affected and impacted by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. Working throughout Murrindindi, Yarra Ranges and parts of Nillumbik, EACH’s counselling and support services are confidential and free of charge, and aim to assist individuals, families, children and youth through the difficult recovery process.

EACH also manages the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) Support Program, ‘Putting one hoof in front of the other’. The program, open for children, young people and adults, aims to support individuals to increase positive coping strategies and build a resilience to stress, using horses as a context in which this can occur. The program will be operating from the Equine Reflections property in Monbulk for each term in 2012, with referrals now open for first term.

Places are also currently available for people to join the Bushfire Adult Evening Support Group. Meeting between 7.00pm and 9.00pm on the last Monday of every month at EACH’s Warrandyte offices, this is currently a small group of women who welcome others, including men, to join their informal and inclusive support group.

Facilitated by Michal deWilloughby from the Australian Centre for Grief & Bereavement and Rosie Petschack from EACH, the group is open to anyone who has experienced loss as a result of the 2009 bushfires.

If you would like more information on any of the programs and services currently offered by EACH please contact Jodie Bowker, Bushfire Recovery Coordinator, EACH Social & Community Health on 0447 336 852 or email jbowker@each.com.au.

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REBUILDING SUPPORT

If you are now in the process of rebuilding on your bushfire-affected property, or if you are yet to decide whether or not to rebuild, there are a number of services currently available that can assist you through this process.

If you believe that any of the services outlined below may be of assistance to you, you are encouraged to find out more information via the contact details provided in this article. It is important to remember that applying for one or all of the services below will not prohibit you from seeking alternative support in the future, or from changing your mind regarding your rebuilding intentions.

Planning your rebuild

Fast Track Planning Approvals for the construction of a dwelling to replace one destroyed in the 2009 bushfires are currently available through local councils up to 30 April 2013. The fast-track process is available for all properties impacted by the fires.

Should you wish to rebuild, failure to lodge an application by 30 April 2013 will require you to instead apply for a normal planning permit for a replacement dwelling and go through the normal planning process. Additional requirements will then apply, including the referral of your application to other agencies for consent if your property is within the new Bushfire Management Overlay.

If you are not quite ready to commence rebuilding but would like to take advantage of the fast track approval process, it is important to note that you will still have two years to commence construction after your application is approved by Council. However, if you do not apply to your local council prior to 30 April 2013, you will miss the opportunity to take advantage of the streamlined approval process.

All planning permit applications should be submitted to your local council. The Rebuilding Advisory Service is also available to provide further advice regarding the planning permit application process, the benefits of lodging a Fast Track Planning Application, and the various options currently available to you. Contact details for the Rebuilding Advisory Service can be found in the Key Contact for Rebuilding Support section of this article.

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Temporary Accommodation

If you are currently living in a temporary dwelling on your property, temporary planning scheme controls brought in after the bushfires that allow you to continue living in these arrangements will expire on 30 April 2013. After this date, you will be required to vacate any temporary dwelling and move to permanent accommodation.

A planning permit can be sought to make a temporary dwelling into a permanent dwelling, however there are no guarantees of approval and you will need to allow sufficient time for the planning and building process. Therefore if your intention is to seek approval to convert a temporary dwelling into a permanent dwelling you should lodge your application as soon as possible in preparation for the expiry on 30 April 2013. It is suggested that you apply at least six months prior to the expiry date.

The Rebuilding Advisory Service is available to provide advice on your planning permit requirements and the submission process, as well as guidance on constructing a permanent dwelling.

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Funding your rebuild

Whether you are in the final stages of your rebuild, or have yet to begin, you may be eligible for financial assistance through the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund’s Further Housing Assistance Gift Stages 1 and 2. The Gift is aimed at supporting home-owners who lost their principle place of residence in the 2009 bushfires to find permanent accommodation.

With the support of three housing associations, working with the Department of Human Services, the Rebuilding Advisory Service and other service providers, approved households will complete a Housing Plan which will detail their pathway, step by step, to permanent accommodation. Eligible applicants will have access to a range of support services – including financial, or other counselling – to help them through the process.

Applications for the VBAF Further Housing Assistance Gift - Stage One and Stage Two - close on 1 April 2012, with approved households eligible for up to $50,000.

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Considering your options

VBAF’s Further Housing Assistance Gift is not limited to those who choose to rebuild on their bushfire -affected property. If you are looking to explore alternative housing arrangements, the Gift can provide financial assistance to purchase a new home, secure a long-term lease, or find other permanent accommodation.

For those households exploring alternative accommodation options, the Bushfire Buy-back Scheme may also be a viable option. The Scheme is the State Government’s response to the Bushfire Royal Commission’s recommendation that “the State develop and implement a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing developments in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk, including a scheme for non-compulsory acquisition by the State of land in those areas”. By acquiring land, the program will ensure that residential properties are not re-built in areas of high bushfire risk, while assisting those landowners to re-settle elsewhere.

Landowners who are undecided or not sure whether they meet the criteria are encouraged to submit an application for consideration by the Bushfire Land Acquisition Panel. Applying for the Scheme will not preclude access to the other support services outlined above, and you can choose to opt out of the scheme at any stage. Similarly, having planning approval for a replacement dwelling will not exclude you from the Buy-back Scheme so long as you have not commenced construction of the dwelling.

Submissions for the Bushfire Buy-back Scheme opened on 1 March 2012 and will close on 31 May 2012. Eligible properties for the Scheme will be determined by the following criteria:

  • owner occupiers whose principal place of residence,
  • was destroyed by the Victorian bushfires of early 2009, and
  • who have not commenced rebuilding on that property, and
  • a site is not available on the property that will enable a replacement dwelling to be located at a distance greater than 100m from forest vegetation, and that vegetation adjoins a large area of forest such as a national park, state park, state forest or private plantation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has now begun to process applications, but will not know the total number of landowners to be considered until after applications close. DOJ will write to each applicant at the earliest opportunity to inform them of when it is likely that their application will be considered.

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Critical dates for Rebuilding Support

  • 1 March 2012. Applications open for the Bushfire Buy-back Scheme
  • 1 April 2012. Applications close for the VBAF Further Housing Assistance Gift Stage 1 & 2
  • 31 May 2012. Applications close for the Bushfire Buy-back Scheme
  • 30 April 2013. Fast Track Applications for Planning Permits close
  • 30 April 2013. Expiry of the planning exemption for temporary accommodation

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Key contacts for Rebuilding Support

  • Rebuilding Advisory Service (RAS)
    The RAS operates from Rebuilding Advisory Centres (RACs) in Kinglake and Marysville – in addition to a mobile service that visits affected landowners. Three rebuilding advisers are available to meet face-to-face to advise on planning and building permits, designs, contract issues, local contractors in addition to providing general advice on your rebuilding options.

    Rebuilding advisers are experienced construction managers. They can be contacted on the numbers below, or for further information go to www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/plansandpolicies/bushfire-planning-and-building/rebuildingandrecovery

    Ken Alexander: 0408 701 715
    (Marysville and surrounds, Gippsland)

    Hank Leine: 0400 666 660 and
    Barry Ingram: 0400 661 360 (Kinglake and surrounds)

  • Bushfire Buy-back
    To request a hardcopy application form to be sent to you, please email bushfirebuyback@justice.vic.gov.au or call (03) 8685 1314. For more information and frequently asked questions go to www.justice.vic.gov.au/buyback

  • VBAF Further Housing Assistance Gift
    More information and an application form can be found on the VBAF website at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal or by phoning the VBAF hotline on 1800 180 213

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COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND MEETINGS

VBAF Medium and Long-Term Recovery Projects Announced

The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF) has announced the first round of projects to secure funding under the $20.5 million allocation for medium and long-term recovery.

The VBAF panel approved 21 projects recommended for funding by the Community Advisory Committee.

VBAF Chair Pat McNamara said VBAF would continue to announce successful projects over the coming months, in addition to details on a suite of statewide initiatives for ongoing psychological support and for practical assistance with property recovery and clean-up.

To see the full list of approved projects and to find out more about the VBAF Medium and Long-Term Recovery Projects go to the VBAF website at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal or call the VBAF hotline on 1800 180 213.

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Work Commences at Habitat for Humanity’s Yea Heights Estate

Work will commence this month to build the first five homes at the Yea Heights Estate, Habitat for Humanity’s project to provide a new beginning for families affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The project aims to provide up to 25 homes at the estate for families in need, with the primary focus on those affected by the bushfires.

Habitat for Humanity, Victoria (Habitat) builds safe, decent and affordable houses for families in need. These houses provide hope and a future for families unable to become home owners using conventional housing finance tools.

Habitat has played an important role in the bushfire recovery process with initiatives such as Yea Heights Estate and the “Brush with Kindness” (BWK) program. The BWK program includes projects such as site clearing, gardening, tree clearing, log splitting, painting and general renovation. Since its inception in early 2009 more than 1,500 volunteers, including corporate teams and individuals, have contributed more than 9,700 hours to over 100 projects in bushfire-impacted areas.

For further information about the Yea Heights Estate and BWK programs, please contact Brian Finch at Habitat on 03 9872 3530 or email bfinch@habitat.org.au.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund December 2011 Progress Report

VBAF has released its December 2011 Progress Report, which details many of the Fund’s key initiatives over the past three years and includes a financial update on the allocation of donated money.

To download a copy of the report go to the VBAF website at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal/about-the-fund

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Marysville and Surrounds Event Funding

Grants are now available to support events in Marysville and Surrounds that aim to increase the number of visitors to the region and enhance the branding and reputation of the region as a tourist destination.

Through the Marysville and Surrounds Events Program, Tourism Victoria is currently offering grants of between $500 and $20,000 to support events in Murrindindi Shire. Applicants should be incorporated bodies or local government agencies, and have the support of the local tourism association. Written applications should be submitted to Tourism Victoria. Assessments will then be undertaken by Tourism Victoria in consultation with Murrindindi Shire Council.

The program will run until June 2014, with applications for the next round of funding closing on 1 May 2012.

For further information and to download the funding guidelines visit www.tourism.vic.gov.au/marketing/marketing/events-marketing

Alternatively you can contact Brendan Downey, Tourism Victoria’s Group Manager Events, on 9653 9883 or email brendan.downey@tourism.vic.gov.au

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Plants available

Bushfire-affected individuals can now access free plants through Golden Wattle in Healesville, with a wide variety of plants and herbs available to assist households with the replanting of their gardens.

Part of EACH Social and Community Health, Golden Wattle Plants is providing up to 10 to 15 plants free with each visit. Plants may also be purchased at a small cost, with all funds going towards soil and potting expenses that will allow the program to continue.

Plants can be collected each Wednesday between 10am and 2pm from Golden Wattle. To take advantage of this great offer please call Jodie Bowker on 0447 336 852 or email jbowker@each.com.au.

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Upcoming events

18 March 2012, 12pm. Opening of Upper Plenty Community Hall and Recreation Space, Upper Plenty, Mitchell Shire.

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Stay updated with The Update

If you would like to receive the Fire Recovery Unit Update by email or mail please email your name and address details to fire.recovery@rdv.vic.gov.au or phone 1800 055 714

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Have Your Say

If you would like to contribute an article of mutual interest to other Fire Recovery Unit Update readers, please email fire.recovery@rdv.vic.gov.au

Please pass this on to affected friends and family who may not yet have registered for the newsletter

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Last Updated: 01 October 2013