Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson: Supporting Latrobe City Recovery

The past week has tested the resolve of many in our community, to what they thought was the end of their teether and then they have gone further.

It has been a tumultuous and challenging time. I have heard first hand heartbreaking stories, along with those which demonstrate the spirit of our great community. We are seeing and have seen neighbours stand by each other’s sides and strangers lend a hand to people in need.

Council crews have been working around the clock alongside other agencies to support our community through the clean up and recovery phase. The support of emergency service agencies – first responders and volunteers on the ground – has been nothing short of remarkable.

The care and support that these men and women provided at the height of the incident, in difficult and dangerous conditions, and in the days that pass, our community is truly indebted to you. On behalf of Latrobe City, I thank you. To our fellow community members who have rolled up their sleeves, lending a hand to friends, family or even strangers, your efforts are truly appreciated.

As we know, the damage of wind and flood has been significant. The recovery phase will be long. Our crews are progressing and nearing the completion of their assessments, gaining a further understanding of the clean up and repair work as we transition to recovery.

To support our community in the recovery phase, we need the support of all levels of government. I would like to acknowledge the announcement of various financial packages which are available to support eligible community members at their time of need.

In past days, I have met with the Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Government Services, Danny Pearson MP and Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing MP to discuss available support and a desire to work in partnership with the state government.

It was heart-warming to receive a call from Minister for Local Government, Sean Leane MP at the beginning of the event. I have appreciated his regular calls and the ability to brief him.

I welcome the announcement by Acting Premier, James Merlino, which has resulted in the mobilisation of Bushfire Recovery Victoria to support the clean-up and recovery work for communities impacted by storm damage. I acknowledge the support of the Australian Defence Force and look forward to welcoming defence members to Latrobe City to assist with the clean-up phase.

We cannot do this alone. We must work together, to build on and enhance our relationships across all levels of government and with support agencies, to ensure a better outcome for our community.

I am passionate about our community and Latrobe City. I will continue to strongly advocate to ensure that the voices of those impacted are heard and the support our community needs is met.

When speaking with elected government officials, I have extended an invite to visit the impacted areas to experience firsthand the suffering, devastation and to grasp the enormity of the task ahead for many who are overwhelmed and exhausted.

I welcome a visit by any government official to experience and understand fully the impacts on our community and community infrastructure, including the significant damage to the region’s roads – the welcome mat to Latrobe City is laid out.

I thank those who have taken the opportunity to visit. Last Thursday, I welcomed Paul Edbrooke MP, Parliamentary Secretary Police and Emergency Services, showing him the impacts of the storm around Yinnar and district. Later I spent time with Victorian Liberal Leader, Michael O’Brien MP and Member for Eastern Victoria, Edward O’Donohue MP touring both the impacted areas of Yinnar and Traralgon.

The flood and storm event not only impacted residents, but resulted in damage to the Yallourn power station and brown coal mine.

I implore Federal and State governments to work with and support Energy Australia as they work with geotechnical experts and government regulators to find a solution in addressing the vertical cracks in the mine wall.

Our community cannot be further disadvantaged, with questions being raised about the life expectancy of the power station should flooding from the Morwell River impact the mine.

Latrobe City needs greater support from all levels of government, we need a considered and whole of government approach to support the ongoing transition of the Latrobe City community, to bring new industries, new employers and more jobs to our region, while assisting existing businesses to grow and create employment opportunities.

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