Premier's pledge to bushfire affected communities

STAWELL - Victorian Premier Denis Napthine saw first hand the devastation brought about by the Grampians fire and the goodwill of the community in action at the Stawell relief centre.

Dr Napthine, along with the Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad were in Stawell on Saturday afternoon.

While Mr Broad said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had phoned to offer his support, Dr Napthine moved to reassure the community through a meeting with Northern Grampians Shire Council, that the Victorian government would be doing all it could to ensure a speedy recovery.

"The message I would say to the local community is that the government will stand with them, stand shoulder to shoulder to help them rebuild the community," Dr Napthine said.

"Particularly in the Grampians area, we understand the importance of the tourism industry to jobs here, to the local economy, to local businesses and we'll certainly, through Parks Victoria, be looking to restore assets in the park as quickly as possible.

"We'll certainly be looking at what we can do as a government to work with the local shires and local tourism industry to promote Halls Gap and the Grampians as a great tourist destination."

Dr Napthine said monetary assistance was available for those affected by the fires.

"I've been here in Stawell meeting with families who have been relocated out of Pomonal and Halls Gap," he said.

"We are saying to those families, there is already assistance directly to every family that's been affected and there's assistance up to $32,000 for those who might have lost their homes.

"Of course there's ongoing assistance to local councils to help them restore assets and to deal with the aftermath of the fires.

"The figures that we've seen from the Grampians fires are encouraging in that while there's a few homes been lost, given the size of the fire, given the extreme weather conditions, that is an absolute great event to have such minimal losses.

"Indeed I was nearly going to say it's a miracle, but it's not a miracle it's because of good planning, it's because of good hard work, an enormous contribution by those people on the front line."

Dr Napthine attributed the lessons learnt from the Black Saturday fires as a reason for why lives and property were saved.

"Well it's certainly been an experience and one of the things that this really highlights is what great work the CFA, Parks Victoria and DSE officers have done to save life and property," he said.

"When you fly over you can see that they've protected houses and they've certainly saved lives.

"We went out onto the fire ground and saw houses that had fire right up to the walls of the houses and we talked to people who had 80 foot high flames right next door to their house and those houses were saved.

"Given the conditions, given the week of extreme weather, given the day-after-day of four days in a row of temperatures in the Black Saturday range, given the enormous wind events of the change on Friday, to have this result is an outstanding result.

"It's a great tribute to the improvements that have been made in emergency management since 2009, to the work on the ground of the CFA and DEPI staff, to the many many people across our emergency services, they've made a real difference."

Dr Napthine said although the worst was now over, it was important people stay attuned to conditions and changes in the weather.

"The threat has eased... Of course we are only in the middle of January and there is another six to eight weeks of hot weather and conditions to continue into the summer, so we ask people to remain alert, to keep their fire plans up-to-date, to make sure they listen regularly to the radio, use the internet, use the Fire Ready App, use all the information available to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe," he said.

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