Shire tells state continuing support will be needed

Wellington Shire Council has made it clear to the state government that help is needed to bring tourists back to the region, saying the Gippsland brand has been damaged as a result of fires.
Wellington Shire Council has made it clear to the state government that help is needed to bring tourists back to the region, saying the Gippsland brand has been damaged as a result of fires.

ONGOING support will be needed to help east Gippsland recover from the bushfires.

Wellington Shire Council representatives last week met with state Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek about bushfire recovery and the effect the disaster has had on businesses and the community.

Councillor Gayle Maher, council chief executive David Morcom and community and culture general manager Sharon Houlihan spoke with the delegation, which included Small Business Commissioner Judy O'Connell and representatives from Local Government Victoria and Bushfire Recovery Victoria.

Cr Maher described the meeting as "a positive one".

"They were keen to hear our view and experiences on the bushfires that affected East Gippsland and Wellington Shire over the past six weeks," she said.

"Whilst the direct impact of bushfire has been minimal to Wellington Shire communities, the economic impact has been vast.

"Strategies were raised with the minister for tourism recovery as the Gippsland brand, we can all acknowledge, has been damaged.

"Actions to address the tourism approach both regionally and locally, including tourist groups, was outlined.

"Support from the metro area will be imperative, and there has already been some great stories within our local communities regarding this."

Cr Maher said the fires had also had a social effect on communities.

"There has been much anger and much frustration expressed towards government and its agencies, particularly with respect to fuel management, climate change and the impacts of both," she said.

"Discussions were raised with the minister on the social recovery and the resourcing to address these issues, including the difficult conversations that need to be had with our communities who are living in a changing climate and landscape.

"We all need to feel safe where we live, and this messaging and actioning needs to come from all levels of government.

"The continuing burden of emergency management also needs to be ongoing, and not just addressed during the heat of an emergency."

Cr Maher said the minister and his advisors understood the issues and committed to take the local message back to government, and to continue providing appropriate support for communities.

After providing 24-hour support over a 12-day period, including documenting 1615 people through two relief centres in Sale, Wellington Shire Council is continuing to help its East Gippsland counterpart, with staff seconded.

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