FloodMate prison crew fencing work

REGION - The FloodMate prison crew has been a success with inmates helping Northern Grampians Shire farm businesses restore more than 160km of fencing destroyed or damaged by flood.

The crew, made up of around nine inmates from the Ararat Prison, has been working in the Shire since August last year as an extension of their other community work. The crew is funded by the by Department of Planning and Community Development's clean-up fund and the Department of Justice, and is being co-ordinated by Northern Grampians Shire Council's Flood Recovery Team.

Municipal Recovery Manager Greg Little said the FloodMate crew had done a fantastic job on the farms where they had worked, with landowners really appreciating their efforts.

Mr Little said many farm businesses within the shire were affected by the September 2010, January 2011 and December 2011 floods, with thousands of kilometres of fencing damaged or destroyed.

He said the Flood Recovery Team identified 1,288 kilometres of fencing damage, but believed this represented only 50 percent of the actual damage caused to fencing across the shire.

"The extent of the damage meant that many farmers did not have the resources to replace or repair damaged fencing and other assets such as access roads," he said.

"Landholders affected by the September 2010 and January 2011 floods were able to source financial assistance through the Rural Finance-managed recovery grants. This cash helped farmers buy replacement fencing material but in most cases there was not enough money to cover the clean up as well as the re-erection of fences."

Mr Little said volunteers had helped re-erect farm fences after the natural disaster but because most farmers had been affected, they were unable to help their neighbours leaving a labour gap that needed to be filled.

"This is why we established the FloodMate program with the primary focus of securing boundary fencing to stop stock from wandering," he said.

Mr Little said the December 2011 floods in the upper Wimmera catchment area had seen another 466km of fencing damaged, which the Council estimates represents around 75 per cent of the actual fencing damaged.

"We believe there are still farmers out there needing help to restore flood-damaged fencing and we hope they can get in touch with us to make use of the FloodMate crew," he said.

"The labour provided by the crew is fully funded by the grants the Council has received to help farmers get back on their feet after these natural disasters. The farmers in the upper Wimmera catchment affected by the December 2011 floods missed out on receiving emergency support grants, which left many without the capacity to restore damaged assets. But the FloodMate crew can still help if you need it."

Since the December 2011 flood, the FloodMate crew has re-erected around 35 kilometre of fencing in the upper Wimmera catchment. As well as its fencing work, the crew has also been working on several community projects around sports clubs and community halls.

"The FloodMate crew has been a great support for our rural communities in helping them with the initial flood damage repairs and also to supporting the volunteer effort that people want to provide in times of hardship," he said.

The program will continue until later this year. If you would like to discuss how the FloodMate crew can assist you, phone Council's Flood Recovery Volunteer Co-ordinator Ewan Letts on 5358 8700.

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