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As soon as the scale of the bushfires of January 2013 was understood, a Ministerial Subcommittee – headed by the Premier of Tasmania, the Hon Lara Giddings MP – was established to direct the multitude of urgent and critical tasks required to initiate the recovery. On 10 January 2013, the State Government established the Tasmanian Bushfire Recovery Taskforce to coordinate activities across government, communities and the private sector that would contribute to the recovery of the bushfireaffected areas.
The establishment of the Taskforce was an acknowledgement that the scale of the recovery was too great for individual local councils to manage without significant assistance from the State Government.
Under its Terms of Reference, the Taskforce has overall responsibility for ensuring that a community-led bushfire recovery is coordinated across government. The Taskforce has therefore taken the leading role to ensure that whatever needs to be done is done as effectively as possible to rebuild Tasmanian communities affected by the 2013 fires. To achieve this, the Taskforce ensured that strong links into the community were incorporated at every level of operation and governance.
The objectives of recovery from the bushfires have been delivered through five programs coordinated by the Taskforce and implemented in a collaborative way with all of the partners in recovery, including the affected communities.
Shortly after the establishment of the Taskforce, the Bushfire Recovery Unit was formed as a temporary operational team within the Department of Premier and Cabinet to provide dedicated resources to the recovery journey. The social recovery coordination resources of the Department of Health and Human Services were co-located with the Bushfire Recovery Unit in recognition of the close working relationship that would be required.
At the same time, the Commissioner of Police, as the State Controller, also established locally-led Affected Area Recovery Committees to support recovery in the Sorell/Tasman and Central Highlands areas. This was a key strategy to ensure close involvement of the communities in these key groups.
The Affected Area Recovery Committees (AARCs) were established under the State Recovery Plan to drive community-led recovery, to represent the communities, and to communicate their needs to the Unit and Taskforce.
Chaired by the respective Mayors of the affected areas, the AARCs drew together a number of recovery partners and community partners to address recovery needs by providing a coordinated and planned process that included:
AARCs were established for the Sorell, Tasman and Central Highlands municipalities. Local governments affected by the Bicheno and Montumana fires were of the view that their existing processes and resources were sufficient to undertake the recovery without the need for a formalised AARC. Areas affected by the Bicheno fires did however benefit from the Appeal funding and the property cleanup program.
The Central Highlands Affected Area Committee (CHAARC) was very active in the months immediately following the Lake Repulse fire, with members contacting all of the directly affected landowners and documenting damage and loss, as well as developing two significant community projects. The majority of CHAARC’s activity was complete by mid-2013, however it continued to meet infrequently until August, at which point, having achieved its Terms of Reference, members recommended that the committee be formally disbanded.
Membership and Terms of Reference of the Sorell Tasman Affected Area Committee (STAARC) were revised in late July to take account of the progress made in recovery. This revision resulted in a significantly higher level of community representation and a corresponding reduction in the membership of government and other organisations. The activity of STAARC is documented more fully under relevant program sections.
See Appendix One for Terms of Reference for AARCs.
The Bushfire Recovery Unit has been integral to the implementation of the five programs for recovery, outlined in subsequent sections of this report. Mobilised in the aftermath of the bushfire emergency, the Unit was staffed by government officers with the required skills and experience to effectively initiate recovery activity from temporary locations and then establish a longer-term presence in the communities.
The Unit has provided advice, coordinated efforts and implemented the plan for recovery and rebuilding. It has worked closely with the communities, the Taskforce, Affected Area Recovery Committees, government agencies, the Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal Distribution Committee and other recovery partners.
Establishment of the Information and Service Hubs at Murdunna, Dunalley and Sorell was a key strategy implemented as soon as possible following the fires to ensure a local connection and provide the community with easy access to a range of government and other support services. The Murdunna and Sorell hubs closed in May 2013; activity through these locations had declined significantly by that time. Recovery Unit staff continued to provide services at the Dunalley Information and Service Hub (the DISH) until February 2014, at which point staffing and operations were significantly scaled back and the transition to alternative administrative arrangements implemented.
The DHHS Social and Personal Support Unit will continue operating from the DISH until 30 June 2014.
In order to effectively coordinate the range of tasks and processes involved in the recovery effort, a number of committees and other groups were established for particular purposes. The frequency of meetings of these groups was driven largely by need. Some met infrequently and on a small number of occasions, while others met regularly to resolve ongoing issues and support the implementation of active programs.
For key groups, regular meetings and close connection to the Bushfire Recovery Unit ensured that tasks were allocated to appropriate service providers or organisations, and that tasks were completed. Some examples of such committees, their membership and a brief description of the work undertaken by them are described in detail in relevant sections of the report.
Throughout the recovery, the Taskforce, recovery organisations and local groups have focussed on communication as the key enabler for a community-led recovery. This has taken many forms, including:
The January 2013 bushfires saw a strong response of offers to volunteer to assist in the clean-up and general recovery. To manage the huge number of people wanting to support the relief efforts, Volunteering Tasmania established a register of interested people and their volunteering preferences. Details of those registered were provided to government agencies and non-government organisations, which made direct contact with individuals on those lists. In addition, Volunteering Tasmania collected details of people interested in volunteering in future emergencies or recovery efforts and provided these details to emergency agencies (for example, the State Emergency Service, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or Tasmania Fire Service) who have since recruited and trained many of those registered to not only support efforts in future disasters but also strengthen their current volunteer base.