Feature Length Live Virtual Presentation 10th Australian Stream Management Conference 2021

Eastern Victorian Bushfires waterways recovery: our new approach (#26)

Astrid P Dunkley 1 , Les R Tate 1 , Christine L Prosser 1 , Stephen J Bird 1
  1. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (VIC), East Melbourne, VIC, Australia

The 2019-2020 Eastern Victorian Bushfires were unprecedented in scale and intensity. Large areas of East Gippsland CMA and North East CMA were severely burnt. Early recovery actions and longer-term, multi-year works programs were imperative to repair the acute damage to waterway and catchment assets and reduce future risks. A new approach was needed to make this happen.

DELWP established a dedicated Bushfire Recovery function in the Water and Catchments Group to support CMAs with relationship management, connection with impact assessment, and accessing funding. Our approach to sourcing funding for waterway and catchment recovery initiatives emphasised community and economic recovery benefits. Additionally, CMA representatives were included in the Bushfire Rapid Risk Assessment Teams (RRATs), which are critical in early recovery.

We successfully secured $21 million in funding for all water sector recovery initiatives, including $6.5 million for two-year waterway restoration projects in both EG & NE CMAs. The improved integration of CMAs into emergency recovery processes meant that waterway, CMA, and community priorities were all considered in recovery planning. DELWP is looking to formally embed and strengthen this approach.

Years of excellent waterway restoration can be lost in a single disaster. Without rapidly implemented and well-targeted recovery programs, these losses (and restoration costs) can be greatly magnified. Our successful waterway recovery governance highlights the importance of including waterway managers in early emergency response, establishing dedicated recovery personnel and resources, and a multi-faceted and opportunistic approach to securing funding. The lessons learned are valuable across jurisdictions and other forms of disaster recovery.

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