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In the first half of 2013, assistance was provided directly to tourism operators, primary producers and other businesses to give short-term relief from the cost pressures of clean-up and disruption to business. The Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Arts (DEDTA) focussed its Southern Region Office on the Sorell/Tasman area to ensure that sufficient support was provided to businesses requiring assistance with strategy and planning. Through this arrangement, DEDTA based one officer in the DISH to work closely with industry groups, non-government organisations, governments, local leaders and community groups to achieve long-term economic development rather than simply addressing shorter-term economic recovery.
Between January and September 2013, DEDTA worked with an estimated 150 businesses and not-for-profit organisations in the area, leading to the successful application for a range of grants totalling $2,291,381 that will underpin recovery, innovation and future growth of the recipients’ businesses. The close working relationship has also assisted to build the capacity of several small businesses to establish credentials and qualifications, which will provide them with legitimacy that will be of benefit over the longer term.
DEDTA provided $20,000 to Sorell and Tasman Councils to commission Structure and Environs Plans for Dunalley and Murdunna respectively. Now complete and adopted by the Councils, the structure plans will inform the development of the new Sorell and Tasman Planning Schemes and provide a strategic planning framework for Dunalley that encourages connectivity, access, quality and non-duplication of services. This is particularly relevant for the rebuild of the Dunalley Primary School and Dunalley Community Hall, as the framework will help to ensure that these and other projects integrate with the overall strategic development of the town in terms of design, function and location.
In addition to this, DEDTA provided $30,000 to Sorell Council for the Dunalley Cove Marina Redevelopment Feasibility Study, which aims to explore the potential of commercial opportunities to enhance the liveability of Dunalley, increase visitation activity and grow the local economy. The study’s recommendations will constitute a coherent set of coordinated actions and strategies for Sorell Council to work with. A project working group has been formed and work is in its early stages.
The Sorell Tasman Economic Recovery Group (STERG) was created to assist with the delivery of Southern Regional Economic Development Plan in the area. Mostly comprising local business operators from a range of interests, the group met a number of times and provided a useful reference point as concepts for economic recovery were developed. A review workshop in June 2013 concluded that STERG had completed its initial agreed tasks, and it has not met since that time. The group is likely to re-form in the first half of 2014 with a view to working with DEDTA to make a contribution to longer-term economic development, consistent with the Southern Regional Economic Development Plan.
The Tassie Comeback Tour was an advertising program managed by DEDTA to encourage Tasmanians back to the local area. Featuring local identities and recognisable locations, the television commercial aimed to boost visitor numbers through the area and create flow on effects for local businesses that had suffered a very poor season to that point.
The destruction of more than 6,000 km of fences, plus crops, stock and infrastructure impacted seriously on a large number of primary producers and their ability to create income. The initial work carried out by BlazeAid volunteers in the months following the fires had a huge impact, both in terms of length of fences repaired and the morale of the farmers who received this extraordinary gift of generosity, often from interstate visitors giving up their holiday time to lend a hand.
Following on from BlazeAid’s fantastic start, the Primary Producers Winter Assistance Package (Winter Package) was coordinated by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) and NRM South, using funds provided by the governments of South Australia and Western Australia, and Rotary and Lions Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government coordinated fencing crews from the Tasmania Prison Service (TPS) and provided funding for overall program coordination.
The program, launched on 20 June and concluded on 21 October 2013, was overseen by a steering committee comprised of representatives from the Unit, TFGA, TPS, Sorell Council, Central Highlands Council, NRM South, Rotary Tasmania and Lions Tasmania.
Direct assistance was provided to farmers across the fire-affected area, including stock feed and 4.5 tonnes of grass seed to re-sow damaged pastures. TFGA coordinated the fencing program, which provided 566 km of fencing material to 37 property owners, with a total materials value of $256 000. Rotary had previously provided seed for many farmers in the fire-affected areas, and also provided 24 farm gates for farms in the Central Highlands.
The TPS provided two work crews and supervised the works program, erecting 137 km of fencing from between the start of the program and the end of April 2014, averaging approximately 650 m of high quality fencing per day. The crews also assisted farmers to plant tree shelter belts, construct fire breaks, remove bushfire debris and erect stock yards. These crews will continue their work on bushfireaffected properties until at least the end of April 2014.
The Winter Package followed on from an earlier initiative led by the TFGA that provided approximately $100 000 towards fencing costs for primary producers.
Finally, NRM South has recently committed $30,000 to oversee a project that will evaluate options to manage fire- destroyed tree plantations. This project will be carried out in collaboration with DEDTA and DPIPWE.