At their March meeting Council allocated the remainder of the region's Disaster Recovery Funding (DRF) towards a number of programs and rates relief - although with the admission that earlier some of the funding went to a project it shouldn't have.
On January 9, 2020, the Commonwealth Government announced an initial payment of $1 million to 42 of the most severely bushfire impacted councils, including Mid-Western Regional.
At the extraordinary meeting on January 31, Council voted to budget $250,000 to install 11 large water tanks at strategic locations across the region and next to Rural Fire Service (RFS) sheds. This was to ensure improved water availability during times of high fire risk and for road works during times of extremely dry weather.
And $50,000 was allocated to employ a bushfire recovery liaison officer to be the central point of contact for those requiring assistance.
Then in February, Council received an additional $275,000 of bushfire recovery assistance, bringing the total DRF to $1.275 million. At that month's meeting they approved expenditure of; $12,600 to 200 Bales; $5,000 towards the Firies and Farmers Day Out in Windeyer; and $10,000 towards general and minor bushfire recovery activities.
And they resolved to defer finalisation of the DRF program for further consultation with affected residents and a submission period ending in early this month. At their March meeting, last Wednesday evening, they moved to amend the 2019/20 budget to allocate the remaining balance of $947,400 [see below].
However, during the intervening period, a number of community submissions called for funding for the 11 water tanks to be withdrawn, because they don't fulfill the objective of the DRF to assist local small businesses, farmers, trades, and communities following the bushfires.
Cr Russell Holden said "we believed it was the best decision at the time", which can't be undone.
"[With] the information provided to us at the extraordinary meeting, and the recommendation for the RFS, we made the decision in good faith," he said.
"The community has spoken and every single one of us has listened and I don't know how we rectify that. We did what we thought was right at the time with the information we had."
Cr Peter Shelley also said their hands are tied, but "I'd encourage Council to lobby the RFS for the incredible generosity of everybody and the money they have received".
"We've heard from our community in regards to the impact. All of us knew what they were but it's very humbling to hear it again and it keeps it fresh in our mind," he said.
"There's nothing I can do about the tanks. But the RFS should be paying for those and the halls."
Balance of the Disaster Recovery Funding:
- $370,000 granted towards private property tree "Make Safe" program;
- $90,000 towards rates relief for impacted residents;
- $90,000 towards economic stimulus initiatives for impacted businesses across the region;
- $60,000 towards Ilford hall upgrades;
- $80,000 granted towards Running Stream hall upgrades;
- $137,400 granted towards Olinda hall upgrades;
- $50,000 towards the waiver of development fees and charges and waste charges;
- $30,000 granted towards community welfare initiatives;
- $30,000 towards volunteer worker initiatives;
- $10,000 towards extending the bushfire liaison officer term.