Federal fire funds back on the agenda at public meeting
Angered at the allocation of Federal bushfire relief funds a group of local residents have tried to overturn the decision.
Coffs Harbour City Council were allocated $1m in federal funding following the bushfires that devastated the region, particularly the small community of Nana Glen.
Locals like Helen Schlangenotto were shocked and angered to hear that The Lower Bucca Community Preschool had been allocated $78,784 for the refurbishment of existing amenities and an undercover area.
To make matters worse the preschool had previously applied for these funds from Council but were knocked back.
Helen was one of the residents who attended a public meeting on January 28 at the Nana Glen Community Hall to discuss the allocation of funds.
“Nothing was said about funds for the preschool at the meeting. The whole purpose of the meeting was all a bit ambiguous. It was all a bit confusing really,” Ms Schlangenotto said.
“The preschool wasn’t event fire affected. I think Council just thought they could allocate these funds and nobody would notice and they would save themselves some money.”
Councillor Sally Townley raised the issue as a ‘matter of an urgent nature’ at the recent council meeting.
“Rather than rescind the decision on the interim program of works (which includes the spending on the preschool) we need more forums to discuss spending all the new money we have for bushfire recovery,” Cr Townley said.
“I can understand why people were surprised it came up when it wasn’t discussed at the public meeting but it’s not easy being given 12 weeks to allocate this amount of money. You’re never going to make everybody happy.”
She would like to encourage residents to come along to the next public forum on the matter to be held at the Nana Glen Community Hall on Wednesday, March 11, at 5.30pm.
Where to from here:
Discussions at the January 28 public meeting led to a preliminary list of initiatives to be funded by the Australian Government’s $1m grant to all bushfire-hit communities. These included:
- Nana Glen Community Hall – installation of solar panels and airconditioning, $70,000.
Community Led Recovery Event – a single whole-of-community event with activities and entertainment to bring everyone together, $50,000.
- Business and Tourism Support – Strategies to attract visitors, $68,000.
- Appointment of a 12-month Community Recovery Officer with experience and skills in disaster recovery, $150,000.
- Lower Bucca Community Preschool for the refurbishment of existing amenities and undercover outdoor area, $78,784.
Among the more long-term projects suggested at the January meeting were improvements to existing infrastructure, a community hub safe place and an emergency equipment storage facility.
The community has since come forward with further recovery ideas and feedback on how the remaining $583,216 money from the $1m grant can be used – along with further recovery funding provided by the State and Federal Governments – via a dedicated page on Council’s Have Your Say website.
An outline of a proposed final program of works will be presented at the March 11 meeting. In addition, the meeting will consider opportunities for environmental restoration projects and receive an update on recovery works carried out by the Australian Defence Force and Blazeaid.
Community feedback has made it clear that a single Community Led Recovery Event is not preferable and a different approach, including alternative funding sources, to deliver a program of community events and activities that promote community resilience and connection will also be outlined.
Road upgrades a priority:
Road upgrades in the Orara Valley, including Ellems Quarry Road and McPhersons Road and bridge have also been highlighted during the community consultations and will be discussed at the March 11 meeting.
Council will propose an alternate approach for Ellems Quarry Road.
Prior to the bushfires, this road was sealed in some sections and gravel road in others. As many of the sealed sections were destroyed during the November fire, Council is in the process of claiming those costs back from the Federal Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA), which cover damage to public infrastructure during disasters.
By using the DRFA funding and funding from our own road budgets, Council will be able to renew and seal the entire road. This work will take place during the first quarter of this financial year, most likely in August.