Overview

This Chapter describes the relief and recovery measures (except those relating to personal health), which government agencies and GDF Suez took to support the Latrobe Valley community during and after the Hazelwood mine fire.

The Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference direct the Board to consider and report on the response to the mine fire. Relief and recovery measures are part of this response.

Relief and recovery during the Hazelwood mine fire was primarily provided by the Department of Human Services and the Latrobe City Council. The Department of Human Services facilitated relief payments to residents who sought respite or relocation from the affected area. The Department, together with the Latrobe City Council facilitated a clean up program, which aimed to assist residents to clean their homes of smoke and ash residue caused by the mine fire. Financial assistance was also available to affected businesses and the community.

The Board heard from representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Latrobe City Council and the community. At community consultations and in written submissions, members of the community commented on the relief and recovery assistance offered. They criticised the timing and adequacy of the clean up packages and questioned the basis for eligibility for relief and recovery payments. In contrast, members of the business community informed the Board that a range of recovery efforts was assisting them to get back on their feet.

The Board also heard from the Latrobe City Council about the governance arrangements relevant to recovery planning and delivery and the initiatives taken by the Council, including clean up packages.

The Board commends the Victorian Government for providing financial and other support for small business through the Morwell Business Relief Fund. The Board commends GDF Suez for its ‘Revive Morwell’ initiative and grants to the community through its Community Social Responsibility Committee. The Board recognises that relief payments were tailored to assist residents affected by the mine fine, however it heard that there was confusion about eligibility requirements, which caused distress to the community.

Based on information before the Board, it is apparent that the Latrobe City Council worked strenuously to implement relief and recovery measures, and to advocate on behalf of the community for adequate clean up packages. While acknowledging that the Victorian Government has not previously provided clean up assistance after natural disasters, the Board heard that the self clean package did not meet the needs of the affected community and that delivery of the assisted clean up package was significantly delayed.