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Storm-stricken Victorians hurt by delayed reconstruction | Blue Mountain Gazette


Residents of Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges have been hit by wilder weather, even as they struggle to recover from devastating storms five months ago.

The Emerald SES handled 70 calls for help on Friday, while the eastern part of the state had more than 100,000 homes without electricity.

But the region is still grappling with cleaning up the June storms, which left 250 properties severely damaged or uninhabitable and caused flooding in the town of Traralgon in Gippsland.

With more trees downed and power outages to deal with, those trying to rebuild homes say they are lacking in patience.

“I really lost it last week, thinking I was so done with it,” Olinda resident Rhonda Fergus told AAP.

Although they were told they would be “the first cab in the row” to have their roof fixed, she and her husband Mark are still waiting for the tradies to start working.

“I have lost count of the number of times they have promised to come out and not show up,” she said.

While insurance payments can take months, and COVID restrictions along with a construction shutdown in September have delayed things, there is a broader feeling that even local builders do not want to take on the work.

The Guest family’s house in Kalorama was destroyed in June when four large trees crashed onto the roof. Since then, they have lived in a house paid for by their insurance.

After devoting all of her time to cleaning up, Natalie Guest says the trees have yet to be removed from her property and she hopes the demolition of her old home will begin in just under a month.

“Even with all my might, we haven’t made as much progress as I would have thought now,” she told AAP.

She still can’t find a builder willing to handle gravel road access, a sloping boulder, and severe bushfire safety clearances characteristic of many Dandenong properties.

“Even hill-based builders are always more interested in building Balwyn McMansions than helping their own community… it’s really disappointing to be honest,” she said.

“We don’t want to build Taj Mahals, we just want to be back on our feet, back home.”

A clean-up program led by Bushfire Recovery Victoria has helped those affected in the Dandenongs and Gippsland, but it says rebuilding is taking time.

“There are many planning and construction requirements to rebuild a destroyed home and it takes time for people to find their options,” a spokesperson told AAP.

“The destroyed properties in the Yarra Ranges pose a risk of bushfire and landslides and are in landscapes that can make reconstruction more complex. “

Prior to reconstruction, properties must be secured and dangerous fallen trees must be removed. About 275 have been re-secured with the help of BRV and work continues on 100 more.

It is estimated that more than 25,000 trees fell in the storm, some reaching 30 meters in height, requiring large machines or cranes to remove them.

And it’s unclear exactly who will pay for the massive cleanup.

Yarra Ranges mayor Fiona McAllister acknowledges BRV’s programs have provided much needed support, but says the agency has only been able to cope with “a small fraction” of the carnage.

Cr McAllister said the AAP council expedited the removal of the trees, but did so on the understanding that the money would flow from the state government.

“As the council undertook the cleanup with the communities and began the recovery planning process, the impacts of such a significant and devastating event far exceed our resources and financial capacity,” the council said in a statement. communicated.

“The Yarra Ranges Council is still waiting for the state government to provide clarification and certainty regarding its pledge of financial support for cleanup after the June floods and storms.”

The Master Builders Association of Victoria has been contacted for comment.

Associated Australian Press