REGION - Major infrastructure in the Grampians damaged by bushfires will be repaired as a matter or urgency thanks to funding from the Victorian Coalition Government.
The government has announced it will provide $250,000 in funding to ensure the speedy rebuild of tourist assets damaged by the bushfires.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the Grampians is a special and unique tourism destination and an asset to Victoria, which through funding will soon be restored.
"We're keen to see the park get back on its feet as soon as possible, with the funding going towards rebuilding and replacing fire damaged facilities such as viewing platforms, walking tracks and signage," he said.
"Importantly, this initiative will ensure replacement assets are more resilient and can better withstand future natural disasters such as bushfires and floods".
Victorians are also encouraged to visit the Grampians and nearby towns to support the local community.
"Although works are needed in some areas, I remind Victorians that majority of the Grampians National Park was not affected by the recent bushfires, so I urge them to take the opportunity to visit," Mr Smith said.
"While we are focused on assisting these communities in their recovery, firefighters continue to work on getting bushfires under control across the state.
"I commend the firefighters and incident management team members who are working tirelessly to contain these fires and I thank them for their hard work and dedication.
"They have worked countless hours in tough conditions, not just at the Grampians but also on fires in the Mallee and East Gippsland in some of the toughest terrain and most isolated areas in the state."
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, said he was delighted the funding had been made available so quickly after the fires.
“It was really great to see the funding put out there so quickly to enable infrastructure damaged by the fires to be repaired,” Cr Erwin said.
“That was one request from Halls Gap Tourism to ensure that damaged infrastructure could be rebuilt as quickly as possible.”
Cr Erwin said he had been thrilled with the show of community spirit since the bushfires, which tore through more than 55,000 hectares and caused significant damage to property.
The fire also severely damaged tourist areas including Zumsteins and Mackenzie Falls, which had also been damaged by flood events in January, 2011.
Cr Erwin said the recovery effort had been one of the most impressive he had seen.
“Halls Gap Tourism is working very hard to ensure visitors come back to the Grampians,” he said.
“The business operators and community in general are also well aware of their counterparts on the other side of the mountain at areas like Wartook.
“They have initiated support for their counterparts to get them over the rather large hurdle they have encountered.
“They are eager to let them know that they care about how their counterparts have been impacted and are wanting to show that there is support available whenever needed.
“This is certainly a great show of community spirit in the wake of such a devastating fire.”
Cr Erwin said he could see from the spirit shown by all in Halls Gap, that the township, while threatened by the bushfires, had come out of it well.
“They are really sticking together and helping each other out, which is fantastic,” he said.
“The Jazz Festival later this month will be a big test, but the town seems to be going well and by all reports, the Australia Day weekend crowds were good. It is great to see people coming back to Halls Gap and the Grampians and we look forward to seeing that continue.
“They have been battling on a number of fronts for some time, but the people out there have been resilient and have been thinking of new ways all the time to ensure tourists keep coming back. Not only that, they are always thinking of ways to help other affected communities.
“The response to this natural disaster has been great and instant and that is very pleasing from council’s point of view.
“Unfortunately due to floods and fires, it appears crews in the Grampians are getting better at repairing damaged infrastructure and I can see that this funding will be put to good use.”
Cr Erwin said following on from the Grampians Jazz Festival in Halls Gap later this month, the region was looking forward to attracting more visitors to the region for the Grampians Grape Escape food and wine festival, which he hoped Premier Denis Napthine would officially open.
“We certainly have a number of unique events on our calendar, many of which are centred around Halls Gap and the Grampians,” Cr Erwin said.
“Seeing visitors return will go a long way to supporting the recovery efforts after the bushfires.”