Helen Haines MP believes the direct and indirect impacts of the summer bushfire emergency in North East communities have been clearly recognised by federal Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud.

The Minister made a half-day visit on February 22 to Towong Shire, where he met mayor David Wortmann and visited Corryong, Tintaldra, Walwa, Shelley and Cudgewa.

He then drove with Dr Haines to the upper Ovens Valley, meeting Alpine Shire councillor John Forsyth and chief executive Charlie Bird in Bright and Porepunkah.

“Mr Wortmann took the Minister and me, together with a National Bushfire Recovery Agency officer, to Corryong’s former primary school where Towong council has set up a bushfire recovery hub for Upper Murray communities,” Dr Haines said.

“But it needs funding to be made fit for purpose.

“I think that was a really important conversation and the Minister made clear to me that he was coming back to Canberra to think about that and how the government might be able to respond.

“We then drove out to Tintaldra, Walwa, Shelly and Cudgewa, where I was able to demonstrate to the Minister the absolutely diabolical situation that confronted these communities – causing the ABC transmitter and telecommunications to fail and the loss of farms, livestock, homes, pasture and wildlife.

“The Minister got a very strong understanding of the help these communities are looking for in recovery.

“These include the working hub in Corryong, and the smaller things like the Cudgewa tennis courts, using bushfire recovery funds to upgrade facilities so that people can come together.”

Mr Littleproud and Dr Haines lunched at the Fair family’s Cudgewa Hotel, which became a vital, unofficial relief centre for the 200-strong community during the worst of the January bushfire.

“We then drove across to the Ovens Valley and Bright and met with tourism and small business operators, including Bright Brewery, that lost summer trade because of the bushfire emergency and state of disaster declaration,” Dr Haines said.

“We also talked with grape growers and winemakers about the impact of smoke taint on this year’s vintage.”

[February 24, 2020]

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