As we move further into 2017, and further down the path of the WyeSep resettlement, we are seeing a strong shift from a focus on recovery from the 2015 Christmas Day Fires and the 2016 Floods, to the renewal of a community.
Until now the recovery has centred on the affected areas, as it should during the clean-up and initial resettlement phases, and was led by EMV and State Government departments, with strong support and guidance from Colac Otway Shire and community members.
The focus has been on the people that were impacted, safety, restoring essential assets and supporting rebuilding. The state-led work was also effectively expanded to incorporate recovery from the impacts of the 2016 floods.
As we look forward to April 2017 and beyond it is obvious there is still work to be done which will build upon the excellent progress to date. Success can be measured by the clean up being completed, retaining walls being installed, 35 planning permits being processed and six houses currently under construction. This work and the quick succession of actions was only possible due to the existing resilience and commitment that already exists in the community.
The next phase of the renewal of Wye River and Separation Creek will broaden from the impacted area to the whole community, including surrounding townships and regular visitors to the region. As part of that step into the renewal phase the community will take a stronger lead, along with Colac Otway Shire.
This next phase of renewal will include the delivery of key projects, ongoing support for rebuilding, and will help to ensure the lessons and knowledge learnt over the past twelve months helps to further build the resilience of the whole community.
The WyeSep Renewal Plan captures this next community-led phase, and will be implemented under the guidance of the Community Resilience Committee (CRC). The CRC will take on a stronger coordinating role for the community and will join with existing community associations to ensure a broader, whole-of-community led approach.
To achieve this Colac Otway Shire is leading the transition from state to local, working through an intensive program of works with VicRoads, DELWP, EMV and the community. This includes:
- Installation of reticulated drainage
- Repair of council-owned retaining walls
- Repair of council-owned assets
- Facilitate the orderly rebuilding of private dwellings.
As the recovery process moves into this new phase, Colac Otway Shire has established a Service Charter to better respond to the individual and collective needs of the community. The Charter sets out the Shire’s commitment to helping these communities rebuild quickly and sets the standard for community engagement and connection.
As part of this Colac Otway Shire has committed to provide project-specific communications and engagement opportunities wherever possible, and keep the community informed through:
- The bushfire recovery email
- Periodic newsletters distributed around key infrastructure milestones
- Community drop-in sessions in Wye River for feedback on specific projects
- A page on Council’s website, which will replace WyeSep Connect
- The WyeSep Connect Facebook page
The next phase of recovery and renewal will start to take place in April, however resettlement after a major emergency is something that can take many years. The community is well placed to drive the strong collaboration and leadership needed to ensure the successful recovery and renewal of Wye River and Separation Creek.
Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner
Sue Wilkinson, CEO Colac Otway Shire