Easing the pressure

Ten Latrobe Valley landowners ravaged by the February 2009 bushfires have taken up a State Government offer to purchase their land, in a plan which ensures houses will never be built on the impacted properties ever again.

As part of the government’s Bushfire Buy-Back Scheme, 108 landowners in fire affected areas across Victoria have taken up the offer, as of Wednesday last week.

The scheme was welcomed as a success by Traralgon South and District Community Recovery Committee chair Ange Gordon, who spoke of the benefit it had on a local couple “who lost everything” in the Black Saturday fire.

“Not only has it relieved a lot of financial pressure by government buying that land back, but has avoided the disastrous possibility of another family suffering the same fate in the future… it has cleared their conscience,” Ms Gordon said.

“Their particular block was too dangerous – the house blew apart from the funnel of wind that came up the mountain before it burnt; while they weren’t at home and didn’t go through the trauma of the actual fire, they lost absolutely everything.”

She said the couple had purchased land and was rebuilding in the area.

In a media release issued last Wednesday, Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan said 137 landowners have been given buy-back offers across the state, with settlement reached on 66 properties.

He said 42 properties were still in the process of settling, and a number of other landowners were still considering whether they wished to proceed.

“The panel will now make recommendations on the best possible future use for the acquired land, prohibiting future residential redevelopment and ensuring any bushfire risk is managed,” Mr Ryan said.

While it was unclear how many outstanding and pending settlements were from the Latrobe Valley, Ms Gordon said she was aware of a “couple” of homes which applied for a buy-back, but had been knocked back on criteria grounds.

The Churchill-Jeeralang fire on Black Saturday destroyed 184 homes and killed 11 people in the area, while less than a week earlier, 30 Boolarra homes were destroyed in the Delburn Complex fire.