VICTORIAN Deputy Premier Peter Ryan last week announced the release of the 2009 Bushfire-Affected Communities - Five Year Consultation Report along with the Victorian Coalition Government's response.
The Victorian Government commissioned former Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority CEO Ben Hubbard to write the independent report, which examines the progress in rebuilding and recovery made by Victorian communities affected by the February 2009 bushfires.
"The report notes the 'story is positive for most' and that Black Saturday survivors have had 'significant support'," Mr Ryan said, adding that while many people have been able to plan for their future, others are still deeply affected by their experiences.
"It was especially pleasing that the report found there was a 'quiet, restrained optimism about the future' in Marysville. The Marysville community, along with the Coalition Government, have put blood, sweat and tears into recovery," he said.
"I am honored to have made the announcement of a $19 million Regional Growth Fund investment into the $28 million Vibe Hotel and Convention Centre, which will act as a magnet to draw conventions and visitors back to the town. I note the report recommends a list of businesses pledging to use the conference centre be compiled.
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government would implement, in whole or in part, all of the report's 23 recommendations.
"The Bushfire recovery unit had been due to finish earlier this year, but we have extended the unit to continue acting as a single point of contact for Black Saturday communities and individuals until 31 December 2015," the Minister said.
"This will make sure bushfire-affected communities can easily access government advice, support and services. We promised we would never forget these people, and we have not," Mr Ryan said.
"We recently made sweeping reforms to planning regulations. These changes may enable residents to build on land with a higher Bushfire Attack Level. The changes include allowing private bushfire bunkers as an alternative safety measure and allowing vegetation clearance to achieve defendable space.
"A $700,000 Bushfire Planning Assistance Fund will directly help affected landholders to make planning permit applications; assist the Rural Planning Flying Squad to deal with any backlog of relevant permit applications at rural and regional councils; help councils to streamline permit requirements and help set up of a special Victorian Building Authority committee to advise on building system regulatory reforms related to bushfire safety."
More than 250 people participated in the consultation process for the report. Mr Ryan thanked bushfire-affected individuals and communities for their valuable contributions.
The 2009 Bushfire-Affected Communities - Five Year Consultation Report and the Victorian Government's Response is available from the Regional Development Victoria website at <http://www.rdv.vic.gov.au/fire-recovery-unit>.