Bushfire 10 January 2011

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The final word on natural disaster declaration.

The Premier, Colin Barnett MLA has written to our local member, Murray Cowper MLA, with a final rejection of our request for the fire last year to be declared a natural disaster. Murray Cowper has pushed very hard for this declaration, even raising a grievance in Parliament which is a most unusual step for a member of a party in government. Thank you Murray for your valiant efforts.

Your Progress Association has also been very vocal and has raised numerous issues regarding costs that we consider should have been incurred and what costs could have been taken into account. We did have some success – at least the Federal Government activated the Australian Government Disaster Relief Payment (AGDRP) arrangements even though these are not normally activated unless there is a natural disaster declaration. The AGDRP provided some extra financial compensation for all those affected. Our thanks go to our Federal Member Mr Don Randall MHR, for his assistance in lobbying the federal government.

It is appropriate to acknowledge the assistance that was provided by some very generous people and organisations. The list below is undoubtedly incomplete for several reasons including reluctance by some to seek acknowledgement. It certainly does not attempt to include the help provided by many locals to one another in the true Australian spirit of mateship. This assistance was given generously and moved many people to tears.

  • The Lord Mayor’s appeal raised over $500,000 which has been distributed to those worst affected.
  • The State Government provided $3,000 to those who lost houses and $1,000 to those who were homes were seriously damaged.
  • Alcoa offered up to ten homes for those who lost their houses – we understand that one of these was accepted gratefully by a family.
  • Several contractors provided free demolition and removal services. It is not possible to list all of these contractors, some of whom simply donated their equipment and time whilst others were subsidised by companies such as BHP. The total value of the services provided was huge.
  • Local service clubs such as the Rotary Clubs of Pinjarra, Harvey and Collie spent many days over a long period helping with cleanup, fencing and other essential jobs.
  • Bendigo Bank raised about $85,000 all of which was distributed to those who were seriously affected.
  • Many local businesses gave affected people very good deals.

Some people feel that the current system of assessing whether a natural disaster has occurred needs to be reviewed. Based on the amount of damage to government infrastructure, it does not take account of costs to Western Power (a fully government owned but “privatised” entity) and also makes no assessment of the human costs. Certainly it is easy for bureaucrats to add up the numbers and in many cases such as the fires in the Perth hills and in Margaret River, the present formula has worked. But it did not work for Lake Clifton and we will attempt to have the whole issue reviewed. Even if a review is undertaken, it will be a long slow process and any changes to the process will not benefit people affected by this fire.

The anniversary last month was obviously a very sad time for many people. Let’s hope that 2012 is a much happier year.

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