Buyback comes to a close

THE State Government’s Bushfire Buyback Scheme is drawing to a close, with seven local properties part of the program.

The $25 million scheme has settled on 114 properties, including those in Gippsland, with another two in the final stages of the process, according to State Bushfire Response Minister Kim Wells.

“While the government is pleased to have met a key recommendation from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, there is little joy to be had from this process. Many of the participants still have emotional ties to the land, and are still recovering from the trauma of Black Saturday,” Mr Wells said.

“The Bushfire Buyback Scheme has helped these landowners start again elsewhere, and has been an important thing to do.

“These properties carry extreme fire risk and as such, this land will not have dwellings built on them ever again.”

The program gave landowners the option to sell their properties at either their pre-Black Saturday value or current market value – which ever was the highest amount – if their principal place of residence was destroyed in the 2009 fires and if the property was within 100 metres of significant forest.

Mr Wells said of the original 198 applications, 138 were found to be eligible with 116 of these going through to settlement. In September last year The Express reported that, more than three years after the devastating bushfires, 25 households in the Latrobe City area were still in temporary housing, while the status of 31 households was still being determined.

The Department of Planning and Community Development said recently the 25 households reported in the 2012 Fire Recovery Housing Survey had not been re-surveyed since. A spokesperson said one of the survey’s aims was to “ensure that those households were able to access assistance to help them transition into permanent arrangements.”

She said the Fire Recovery Unit could now report 20 of those households had applied for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Further Housing Assistance Gift.