Bushfire Royal Commission: Red tape stops locals from helping in recovery

THE ROAD BACK: The Upper Murray regions was devastated by the summer bushfires and has been a focus of Royal Commission hearings in recent months.
THE ROAD BACK: The Upper Murray regions was devastated by the summer bushfires and has been a focus of Royal Commission hearings in recent months.

One of the only positives of bushfire recovery programs after this summer was the employment it would give to people in those affected areas.

But red tape meant that was not always the case.

Bushfire Recovery Victoria chief executive Lee Miezis gave evidence on Friday at the National Natural Disaster Arrangements Royal Commission, saying the key improvement he would like to see was allowing more local workers to be involved in the clean-up process.

Only 52 per cent of those employed were from areas where the bushfires occurred because there were challenges in getting the Class A licence, required due to asbestos concerns.

"In regional areas, there are often a small number of contractors that have those Class A classifications - we would have liked to have had more local content," Mr Miezis said.

"We will continue to work with WorkSafe as the regulator on some of those changes we might be able to make - changes to that system that don't compromise safety, recognising that there is asbestos at 30 of these sites, but at the same time we are able to better meet our objectives for maximising local employment opportunities."

IN OTHER NEWS:

Unlike the current coronavirus response, when it comes to bushfire recovery, the border between Victoria and NSW does not exist.

Mr Miezis said in establishing a community recovery committee in the Upper Murray, people at Walwa were very clear that Jingelic should also be included.

"Whilst I know and understand in the initial relief there was some barriers that were experienced, we've worked very quickly ... to make sure that we've got community at the centre of what we're doing, rather than saying 'sorry, Walwa, we know your major service centre might be Jingellic but, hey, we can't help you there', he said.

"It's just a practical approach that says how do we best work with NSW to meet the needs of those communities."

This story Red tape stops locals from helping bushfire recovery first appeared on The Canberra Times.