Bath seeks redirection of Baw Baw bushfire recovery funds

Two years after Baw Baw Shire was impacted by bushfire, money allocated for recovery remains unspent because of conditions attached to its distribution.

Baw Baw Shire Council was granted $350,000 for bushfire recovery to help the recovery communities of Walhalla, Bunyip and Labertouche in November 2019.

The Andrews Labor Government conditional funding stipulated Baw Baw Shire Council could only to use it develop an indigenous community recovery plan, financial counselling for affected farmers, provide funding for trauma counselling and for a ‘community conversation’.

Working collaboratively with the Baw Baw Shire Council, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath used state parliament to call on the Andrews Government to redirect the stranded bushfire funding.

Ms Bath said the Council is struggling to spend the money on the activities prescribed by the Andrews Government.

“Two years on from the event and locals say there is now little or no need for trauma counselling.

“What the community need is for the Minister for Emergency Services, Lisa Neville to redirect the unspent funds on needed tangible infrastructure projects”, said Ms Bath.

“The Walhalla, Bunyip and Labertouche community don’t want to see the balance of the funding to be spent on programs that are no longer valid, when there are other worthwhile projects.”

During that 2019 fire season, the areas around Walhalla, Bunyip and Labertouche saw 29 homes lost, 67 sheds and outbuildings, private and public land destroyed.

Local project suggestions from Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Tourism Association include sealing the carpark in Walhalla around the helipad and building a link between the Australian Alps Walking Track and the Walhalla Railway Station.

Ms Bath said tourism was significantly impacted by the 2019 bushfire after the area was closed to visitors during the peak visitor season and now following COVID-19, there is a real need to encourage people back to the area.

‘It makes perfect sense to redirect the funds to more tangible uses to support tourism in the Baw Baw Shire and importantly enhance the town amenities for residents.

“I am calling on the Andrews Labor Government to redirect leftover bushfire funding, so the Baw Baw community move continue their recovery from the 2019 fires.”