Region's fire recovery

STAWELL - State Opposition leader Daniel Andrews visited the region last week, stopping by Stawell to see first hand the work of the Northern Grampians Shire Recovery Centre.

Mr Andrews was quick to point out that politics wasn't the purpose of the visit, instead to meet with and show support for everyone involved and/or affected by the recent fires.

"Let's hope all sides of Victorian politics can work together and band together just as the community has," he said.

"There are many small businesses, many property owners who, while the immediate fire threat may have passed, still face a long difficult recovery period.

"In a broader sense there are those who rely upon the steady stream of visitors to this region and obviously at the moment there's a pretty sharp downturn in the number of people that are coming here.

"The Grampians is open for business, it's a spectacular, marvellous place to visit and without those tourism dollars, without visitors, this region's going to struggle at a time when it's already very tough."

Drew and Melissa Sutherland's Roses Gap Recreation Centre was severely damaged by the Grampians blaze.

The Sutherlands lost an estimated 50 percent of the buildings at the adventure school camp which caters for school groups looking to experience outdoor activities, be it for an overnight stay or the whole week.

The fire also levelled the two storey residence the couple called home for all of the working week.

Mr Andrews said the most striking thing for him was how people from right across the state had come together to show their support for people like Drew and Melissa who are determined to rebuild.

"I think the most striking thing is the absolute resilience of people who in the face of adversity have the ability to still be strong and to have great purpose and drive, to build and recover and to get back better than ever, that's something pretty special," he said.

Mr Andrews said people from right across the state have come together committed to working hard and looking out for each other.

"They've done a mighty job and it's important that we pause for a moment to say thank you and single them out for the work they've done, but also fires still do burn now and you've got the weather heating up next week and fires seasons far from over so we thank them in anticipation of the work they'll keep doing."

The Recovery Centre at the Stawell Health and Community Centre in Patrick Street is open between 9am and 5pm weekdays to assist those impacted by the fires.

In addition to providing information and referrals, the Recovery Centre offers social support and links to Council services.

The Department of Human Services also has grant officers available.

Since last Monday staff at the centre have received enquiries from more than 20 residents each day.

Chief executive officer, Justine Linley said Council was still receiving initial impact assessment information from various agencies, but had already commenced preliminary response planning.

"This is a difficult time for many people in our communities, but we want to make sure they receive the assistance they need," she said.

"In the coming weeks, Council will be undertaking post impact assessments and working with businesses, tourism operators and individuals impacted by the fires.

"We are also heavily involved in local and regional recovery planning which is already well underway."

Mrs Linley said residents were invited to visit the Recovery Centre at any time during business hours, or call 5358 7599.

Resources are also available on Council's website, www.ngshire.vic.gov.au

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