AFTERMATH OF A SEVERE BUSHFIRE ATTACK
Marysville update – mid year 2014
It is now five years since the Black Saturday fires wiped Marysville township out. Politicians and celebrities promised they would never forget the victims. How is Marysville rebuilding itself now?
We have a map showing where the houses were destroyed, presented to the Royal Commission by the Shire. We have been waiting for Google Maps to produce a clear image to allow houses to be counted.
Here is what we counted in the sample. Of 372 houses destroyed, 87 have been rebuilt. This is 23%.
This surely cannot be right. We double check. Five years after the bushfire, only a quarter of houses have been rebuilt.
Marysville was a beautiful town with irreplaceable buildings full of character. It survived the 1939 fires and the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires. It was well worth saving. Our considered view is that Marysville and the other towns were destroyed because of government policy failure. Despite the decade of building drought, nobody in authority was ever required to ask the question – is Marysville physically protected against a severe bushfire from the known danger directions? We have had a Royal Commission since, but fundamental policy has not changed. To this day, nobody is required to ask that that question of Marysville, or any other town.
Rural communities need to know that the government protection policy still relies on suppression by the volunteer fire brigade model and wet fire fighting. It has an upper capability and cannot catch running bush fires if they get away in windy weather. This is no fault of the volunteers. They know tankers and water cannot handle a severe running bushfire. The government policy failure is that it knows these runaway fires will attack towns, but it does not make them protected. We must change this. Read Paper 5 Victoria not protected from running bushfire and Paper 10 Bushfire Solution of our new eBOOK to find out more information.
We must find out if we can help Marysville recover now, and we must prevent other Marysville’s from occurring in the coming fire season and afterwards.
House reconstruction progress (press reports by date)
Black Saturday fires occurred on 7 Feb 2009. They destroyed over 2000 houses
The following press reports indicate the painful consequences of massive house destruction
12 Sep 2009
Seven months after the Black Saturday bushfires, it’s been revealed only five houses have been rebuilt.
Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority chairwoman, Christine Nixon, has told ABC1’s Stateline program, 800 building applications have been processed so far.
“And they’re principally for sheds. But there are also some houses in there across the whole of the fire affected area,” she said.
31 Jan 2010
Murrundindi Shire Council has issued 227 house permits for fire-affected properties in the past 12 months. Locals say about 50 Marysville houses have been rebuilt from 418 officially lost.
The maths alone explains the Marysville malaise. But the barest inspection offers more clues.
There is no through traffic here. No petrol station.
For six months, according to one local, not much happened at all in what was left of Marysville.
Mutterings about red tape appear set to fester for months, if not years.
It was almost six weeks before locals could return to the remains of the town. There was clearing to be done. Then, house plans got bogged in mooted fire safety regulations.
February 04, 2010
Just under 300 rebuilding permits have been issued for houses, sheds and commercial properties in Marysville and the surrounding triangle. In the Kinglake Ranges, taking in Kinglake, Pheasant Creek and Toolangi, 361 building permits have been sought. There were 505 properties destroyed there on February 7.
Locals believe as few as 50 houses are actually being rebuilt in Marysville while many permits are probably for sheds.
Bushfire reconstruction spokeswoman Melissa Arch said most people applying to rebuild sheds seemed to be planning to live in them in the short term. Anecdotally, the number of people living in tents and caravans appears to have diminished significantly although there are still isolated cases across the fire zones.
But progress was always going to be slow, with the rebuilding process arduous for many – particularly those who lost family or can’t decide whether to face the risk of any disaster.
19 Feb 2010
Christine Nixon, chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, said rebuilding progress to date was “about right” for the communities. She said, although there are no firm figures, about 100 of the 2,133 homes destroyed have been rebuilt, while more than 1,500 building permits have been issued.
6 Aug 2010
Eighteen months after the Black Saturday bushfires destroyed 2029 homes, only 294 have been rebuilt.
RED tape and bureaucratic bungling has meant only 294 out of the 2029 homes destroyed on Black Saturday have been rebuilt and certified.
February 7, 2011
LESS than half the homes destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires – two years ago today – have been rebuilt, revealing the difficulty of renewing disaster-ravaged communities.
The Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority says only 41 per cent of the 1795 principal places of residence razed by the fires have been, or are in the process of being, replaced.
David Stirling, Marysville resident and chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce, said about 130 homes in Marysville are completed, in the planning stage or about to be started.
Other figures, from an August survey by the Bushfire Recovery Authority of bushfire-affected communities, show 72 per cent of people had rebuilt, purchased new properties in other locations or started the rebuilding process. Another 17 per cent intended to rebuild but hadn’t started the process yet and 8 per cent – many of them elderly people – had decided not to rebuild. About 4 per cent were undecided.
Malcolm Hackett, a Strathewen farmer and member of the local community renewal association who is yet to rebuild his home after the fires, said about 80 residences in the area were destroyed.
In Strathewen, six houses have been finished and four are close to completion. Another 10 were likely to be built this year, he said.
”There’s a few people who have certainly found it difficult to remain in the community because they lost so many friends,” he said. ”Rebuilding isn’t compulsory … People come to it when they’ve got the emotional as well as the financial resources.”
30 Apr 2011
Figures show private sector confidence is returning with 30 main street retail businesses expected to be opened by the end of this year, while 200 homes and 600 accommodation beds out of 1,500 pre-fire will be rebuilt by January 2012.
15 May 2011
In the temporary village on the town’s outskirts, 71 people who lost their homes in the 2009 fire tragedy remain housed in small timber cabins, enduring the grindingly slow process of rebuilding.
One woman, who moved into a single-bedroom cabin 14 months ago after bunking with relatives, said she was desperately waiting for the completion of her new home.
“I absolutely hate it,” she said.
“There’s no privacy and it’s just depressing. I want to go home.”
Déjà vu Canberra fires, Feb 2003
February 24, 2004
A year after the catastrophic Canberra bushfires, only 10 per cent of the 500 houses destroyed have been rebuilt and unhappy victims have been left tens of housands of dollars out of pocket. In a warning to home owners around the country, they say the insurance industry is to blame.
18 Jan 2006
More than 90 per cent of the homes destroyed in urban Canberra have been rebuilt or are in the process thereof.