Monday, March 22, 2010

Update from Flowerdale Forum II

Flowerdale Forum II was held on 20 March at the Community Hall. There were about 100 people in attendance with good representation from VBRRA, Murrindindi Shire Council and the Community.

The main purpose of the Forum was to provide an update on progress on the 14 areas identified by the Community at Flowerdale Future Forum in July, which then formed the basis for the Community Recovery Plan submitted on the 18th August.

Betsy Harrington from VBRRA opened the meeting and gave a report on the progress from a VBRRA perspective.

Rob Croxford, CEO of Murrindindi Shire Council, gave a report from the Shire perspective and explained some details of funding that had been provided to the Shire to help them continue to provide services. With the large loss of property in the Shire there has been a $3.2m revenue decline from rates. In addition, the demand for services has increased due to the recovery and reconstruction effort. Rob also explained how the Shire had appointed a Section 86 Committee made up of Councillors, VBRRA people and other state government representatives to manage the Recovery and Reconstruction efforts in the Shire.

A video presentation followed that outlined the progress on all 14 of the areas included in the Community Recovery plan. (I will try to get the video and put it online as many people commented on how useful it was to see everything in the one place).

Overall 12 of the 14 areas are well underway. Two areas, namely, Communicatons and Sustainability, particularly Water, require more work.

Michael Sammut from Telstra and Pete Williams went through Communications. Michael gave an overview of some of the options available to residents in terms of accessing mobile coverage, improving mobile coverage, setting up a broadband internet connection and also wireless broadband. The price of wireless broadband has recently reduced and Michael gave a brief outline of the new pricing. Importantly Michael has offered that Telstra Countrywide will make home visits and go through testing and advice to the residents to ensure they can maximise the use of communications services that are currently available. It was acknowledged that sometimes people had the right handsets but wrong sim cards or that setting up a Yagi antenna can make all the difference to improving both mobile phone and wireless internet reception. The Community was also advised that we had been awarded a Forrester Groundswell Award for the use of technology to communicate since the fires.

A representative of Goulbourn Broken Catchment Management Authority gave an overview of its activities particularly in relation to managing the King Parrot Creek.

messages were also relayed to the Community from both the Prime Minister and Andrew Forrest, effectively saying how they saw Flowerdale as leaders in the recovery process.

After an afternoon tea break there was a question and answer session. Issues covered included:

One Postcode for Flowerdale - it was confirmed that work was proceeding on this issue and funding had been provided to go through the process.

Flowerdale Relief Fund - The Flowerdale Relief Fund has approximately $62,000 from various donors. To date only $2340 has been expended on Arts Materials on the specific request of the donor. The funds were being held until after decisions are made on the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Funding Applications that have been submitted to VBAF on behalf of a range of community groups or for specific projects. An amount of approximately $24,000 was raised from the Flowerdale vs Flouros event and these funds were disbursed to 6 community groups.

Flowerdale Recovery Committee - A number of questions were asked about the Flowerdale Recovery Committee in terms of tenure, size etc. The meeting was advised that as a result of a petition presented to the Section 86 Committee of Council an independent facilitator will be appointed to facilitate discussions between the FRC and the petitioners.

Community House Grant and Jarara - A number of questions were asked about the process of obtaining the $1.67 million grant from the DEEWR jobs fund, the selection of the Jarara site and the removal of the Jarara Committee. It was explained that the grant application was put together in a very short time frame and that at the time it was not expected that the grant application would be successful but it was worth a try. When the grant was awarded in October, Coomunity House contacted Council to inform them of the successful application. It was acknowledged that there should have been more consultation and Council also acknowledged the good work of the Jarara Committee. Paula Turner of Community House also issued an open invitation to all in the Community to become involved with Community House and the new facility.

Overall it was a positive day and I will try to get the video online ASAP.

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