Region can recover

Strength out of adversity.

That’s what the region’s community recovery workers aim to achieve as they begin the unique task of returning the communities of Hernes Oak, Driffield and Morwell back to normal.

Latrobe municipal recovery manager Steve Tong said he wanted to leave the community in better shape than it was before the fires.

“Once we get through the practical and clean-up related issues, it’ll be about how we connect this community and make it stronger,” Mr Tong said.

“Recovery is a great opportunity for the community to build closer connections and be more supportive of each other, with a clear vision for its own future – that’s the remnant we’d like to leave behind.”

He said he hoped the latest fire-affected communities could become more cohesive, robust and active, just as Traralgon South, Callignee, Hazelwood, Jeeralang, Boolarra and Yinnar did after their devastation in 2009.

“You find all the diamonds,” Mr Tong said.

“It’s a great opportunity to show the world this place is not bereft.”

The entire Hazelwood mine fire was declared safe on Tuesday and Latrobe City Council is expected to soon take over the recovery process from the Incident Control Centre.

Council officers will meet with bushfire-affected residents from Driffield and Hernes Oak tonight to hear about their needs in recovery.

Mr Tong said this was the first step in developing community recovery plans, one for the bushfire-affected residents and one for those affected by the mine fire, because the incidents were unique to each other.

“We need to make sure the bushfire event doesn’t get lost,” he said.

“The Morwell mine fire event is pretty unusual, so we’re not going to assume anything.

“We take our orders from the community using the information from doorknocking and community engagement.

“A community recovery committee will now be established to oversee the implementation of the recovery plans.”

Mr Tong said the community advisory group established earlier this month would effectively become the recovery committee, with some changes in membership, including the removal of council officers.

“The membership of the group will be reviewed to make sure we’ve got everyone we need on there and the committee will elect their own chair,” he said.

“Job number one will be to identify the aspirations of the community and identify what the best solutions will be.”

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley told The Express on Tuesday, the ‘safe’ declaration was a “sense of achievement” after 45 days of fierefighting.

He said all that remained were hot spots that could not be fully extinguished until rain washed them out.

Control of the situation has been handed back to mine operator GDF Suez.

Mr Lapsley said the CFA would continue to support the mine with advice.