By Taylah Eastwell
Yarra Ranges Council are hosting a number of business forums to give local business owners and residents a voice towards the multifaceted and ongoing post-storm recovery effort.
Concerned locals have filled halls and meeting spaces across the shire over the last fortnight to share their experiences both during and in the aftermath of the the superstorm on 9 June.
In Monbulk on Wednesday 7 July, council officials were joined by representatives from the NBN, SES, Bushfire Recovery Victoria, Victoria Police, Department of Transport (VicRoads) and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, among others, who each answered questions from the community on behalf of their agencies.
VICSES Regional Emergency Management Officer Alan Barnard gave an update on callout figures, and said the SES is now transitioning its work from immediate response to ongoing recovery.
“During that night (9 June) and in the time after we’ve had four landslides reported in the area. Landslides vary from being a rock on the road through to something major. We’ve had 730 trees on power lines, 477 access issues and 95 people reported as trapped in their properties.
“We had four vehicles damaged on the night, one of which was a week old, completely written-off. That’s pretty scary when you consider the people had just gotten out of the car. It wasn’t pleasant to be out there,” he said.
Mr Barnard said the SES have set new parameters and raised their “trigger levels” so crews will be on standby ready for similar future weather events.
A spokesperson from the Department of Transport (DoT) said hearing from the public at the council-run meetings was useful in guiding the agency on where to prioritise works.
The DoT is aiming to return to a “business as usual” model by the end of the week by removing traffic blocks, but workers will remain on the mountain for some time to repair damaged pavements, sign posts and clear drains full of debris.
Business owners expressed concerns about telecommunications, with some unable to contact staff on the morning following the storm and others unable to operate due to Eftpos machines being down for days.
Babaji’s Kitchen owner Billy Crombie said the original messaging telling people to stay away from the Dandenong Ranges was damaging for Hills suburbs that weren’t as hard-hit, like Belgrave.
“I guess people associate Belgrave with Puffing Billy and the Dandenong Ranges so that meant we were having so many table cancellations, people ringing up asking if it’s safe, social media was full of messages from people asking they could come up,” Billy said.
“Belgrave was fairly untouched. It didn’t get the destruction so Belgrave was operating as normal and it was deserted. We rely on people from the suburbs to come up and enjoy the Hills and they weren’t coming because that stay away messaging was so wide,” she said.
Billy said Yarra Ranges Tourism changed their messaging after a few local groups contacted them. They instead put out a route that tourists could travel without visiting or travelling through the unsafe, storm ravaged townships.
“It’s not all about money and I will do everything I can to support this community but you’ve just come out of several lockdowns, in school holidays when you’re supposed to be busier, there’s been a storm which has been devastating but your township is ok, you have to be proactive and tell people the situation,” she said.
Yarra Ranges Council and various other agencies recorded comments made by members of the public to help shape recovery efforts in coming months.
Upcoming forums are:
Burrinja Cultural Centre, 351 Glenfern Road, Upwey
Thursday 8th July – 5.00pm-7.00pm
Lilydale Lakeside Conference & Events ( Box Hill Institute) Jarlo Drive Lilydale
Friday 9th July – 7.30am-9.30am
Healesville Memo Hall, 235 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
Tuesday 13th July – 7.30am-9.30am
Yarra Junction Community Link, 2442-2444 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction
Thursday 15th July – 5.00pm-7.00pm
Registrations are essential and can be made at https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Experience/Events/Business-Forum-Storm-Flood-Event.