A LEAD contractor has been appointed for the federal and state government’s coordinated clean-up in the aftermath of the recent devastating storm.

The chosen contractor is Hansen Yuncken, “a disaster recovery specialist with the expertise to work on complex projects and will work with local sub-contractors to get communities back on their feet”, the state government said.

Clean-up activities for impacted households and communities will be jointly funded through the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

The severe Victorian weather event of Tuesday, February 13 caused widespread damage right across Victoria, especially for Mirboo North.

“Demolition of damaged houses, asbestos and other hazard removal will be included as part of the clean-up in the affected communities, while hazardous tree removal will also be part of the work completed,” the state government said.

“The Victorian government will also establish a centralised green waste facility for the clean-up and is continuing to work with the Commonwealth government to finalise its location.”

The state government said this program builds on the support being provided by the federal and state governments, which includes:

Personal hardship payments of $640 per adult and $320 per child up to a maximum of $2240 per eligible family to help cover the costs of essentials like food, clothing, medication and accommodation;

Emergency re-establishment grants of up to $49,300 for uninsured people if their primary place of residence has been destroyed or is uninhabitable;

Prolonged Power Outages Payments of up to $1920 per week for households and up to $2927 per week for up to three weeks for affected small businesses;

A Community Recovery Officer deployed to councils, including South Gippsland Shire, to help identify the recovery needs of individuals and families, and;

The Emergency Recovery Hotline has been activated to process calls from anyone affected by fires or storms. To access recovery support, affected residents can call the hotline on 1800 560 760.

The Recovery Support Program has also been set up and is available for people to access via the Emergency Recovery Hotline. This includes mental health support, case management, and business support, and can connect people with additional and existing services.

Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt said it was important to begin the clean-up in regions most affected by recent disaster events.

“This clean-up is a priority which will ensure the local community have safe access to homes and debris is removed – helping people get back on their feet,” he said.

“We will continue to work closely with the Victorian government to help communities recover, through the joint support under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.”

Victoria’s Minister for Emergency Services, Jaclyn Symes, made a confirmation of state assistance to the Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, when she asked about further supports in state Parliament last week.

“We are getting on with the clean-up, working with councils and the community, so that properties are safe and essential infrastructure is restored,” Ms Symes said.

“Councils and other agencies have already been on the ground helping communities clear debris – this additional support will ensure that we fast-track the clean-up and ensure that people can start their recovery as fast as possible.”

From the beginning, the Opposition and The Nationals have made calls for a lead contractor to take care of the storm debris in Mirboo North.

“Residents impacted by natural disasters need clean-up assistance in the days immediately after preceding, not a politically coordinated announcement two weeks later,” Ms Bath said.

“Emergency Management Victoria (EMV), which reports to the Minister, has overall responsibility for coordination before, during and after major emergencies, including management of consequences of an emergency – there is no excuse for lengthy delays in support.

“Storm damage is not a new concept – any event such as the one that ripped through Mirboo North and surrounds should have immediately triggered a series of automated assessments and protocols aimed at recovery.”

When Member for South Gippsland, Danny O’Brien, visited Mirboo North to examine the damage, he told media that the sheer amount of debris to clean-up was well beyond the capacities of the small rural town.

“The failure to announce the formal clean-up and support measures in a timely manner, is now getting embarrassing. Volunteers, South Gippsland Shire, insurance contractors and generous Gippsland businesses will have the job done before the government gets out of bed,” he said.

Though the clean-up process in Mirboo North has only just begun, many locals and helpful volunteers, alongside the SES and other agencies, have done quite a bit of heavy lifting.

Mr O’Brien said he would seek more details of the state and federal government clean-up package to see what exact details the contract entails, where it will operate, and if it will help private properties.