Locals must be used in fire recovery work, accoring to Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull

Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull helps direct Need for Feed trucks at the East Gippsland Livestock Exchange, which are laden with donated hay for distribution to fire-affected farmers.
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull helps direct Need for Feed trucks at the East Gippsland Livestock Exchange, which are laden with donated hay for distribution to fire-affected farmers.

A LOCAL politician is calling for all east Gippsland fire recovery efforts to be local.

Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said while some communities were still bracing themselves for possible fire impact, recovery needed to begin in other areas.

When it did, he said local businesses, contractors and tradies must be used wherever possible, as engaging locals would go some way to help with the massive economic recovery that was required.

"Of course, we are going to have to have additional business supports provided by the various levels of government, but the fact is, there is a massive amount of work to be done - and we need locals doing it," Mr Bull said.

"One example of this is Clifton Creek Primary School [west of Bruthen].

"We need to rebuild it and we need it rebuilt by locals.

"There will also be considerable clean-up and reconstruction work, and we have the expertise here to do it.

"If these jobs have to go to tender, we need a strong weighting for east Gippsland businesses."

Mr Bull said that while East Gippsland Shire Council was the official recovery agency, the state still had a role to play in many areas.

"One of these is boundary fencing," he said.

"We've had hundreds, possibly thousands of kilometres of boundary fencing destroyed, much of it where the government is the neighbour, usually either VicRoads, DELWP or Parks.

"In many cases fuel loads were not controlled by the government and now private assets have been lost, so the state clearly has a role to play.

"It hasn't been a good neighbour in the past, but it can start being a better one now.

"We have many situations where stock are currently wandering because fences are down, and I've already heard of one farmer who lost stock to a wild dog attack immediately after the fire destroyed his boundary fence," Mr Bull said.

"I was speaking to one Buchan farmer who spent a lot of time and money on wild dog fencing and only just had it completed.

"He's been pleading for a burn on public land adjacent to his home for years and it wasn't done - and now he has lost the lot.

"The next day he lost his first lamb for some time.

"He cannot be expected to tip in again, and there are many similar cases."

Mr Bull also called for the government to provide a subsidy for fodder and stock transport given the dire feed situation facing fire-affected farmers.

"The current fuel subsidy of $6.30 per kilometre for donated hay being coordinated through the Victorian Farmers Federation is good, but it is time-limited and we will need long-term support for our farmers," he said.

"That will require a freight subsidy for purchased fodder as well as stock having to be moved, for example to agistment in other parts of the region or state."

Mr Bull said an important part of the recovery would be cleaning up of fire-damaged homes and public infrastructure, and the government needed to get this happening as quickly as possible.

"Once the actual fire threat has receded people will want to rebuild, but they will need help to clean up destroyed and damaged properties," he said.

"The Australian Defence Force is doing a great job at the moment, but we will need more support for clean-up and clearing so we can start rebuilding and allowing people to get on with their lives."

Mr Bull said he had highlighted to the premier's office the enormity of the coming recovery task, and that East Gippsland Shire Council, as the lead recovery agency, would need help to cope with the workload.

He said his requests were well received, and he would continue to work with the government to help the region through this crisis.

Mr Bull said he would also be meeting regularly with the shire to help in any way he could with the different elements of the recovery.