The State Government has committed to sharing the cost of materials for boundary fencing between private and public land that have been damaged or destroyed by bushfire.
In a statement issued to the Advertiser on Friday, a Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) spokesperson said the Victorian Government would meet the full restoration costs of internal and boundary fencing on private land adjoining public land that has been damaged by fire agencies as a result of fire suppression efforts.
“In the case of boundary fences damaged by bushfire, the Victorian Government will meet half the cost of materials to replace or repair fencing between private land and all national parks, state parks and state forests destroyed or damaged by bushfires,” the spokesperson said.
However, the agency is not responsible for the repair or replacement of internal fences that have been impacted by bushfire, unless damaged by machinery during fire suppression activities.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he had a phone hook-up with government members the morning of the announcement and had stressed the need for rapid action.
“This is what we called for and now we need to ensure the money flows quickly for those who are ready to move quickly,” Mr Bull said.
“We have stock wandering because of burnt fences and wild dog attacks near Buchan already.
“The government needs to take responsibility for the rebuild the same as any adjoining neighbour.
“Farmers have worn the lack of management on fuel loads.”
At Sarsfield, Doug Pemberton, of Nicholson River Merino stud, faces a huge financial burden to replace 20 kilometres of fencing, which includes boundary fencing that adjoins public roads.
In order to make the fence lines safe he has employed an excavator to clear the way.
He said the fire had spread from the Omeo Highway and roared down Lees Road and another unused road that was fenced on both sides by landowners, leaving just 400 acres of the 1200-acre property unburnt.
“The government road was just full of litter,” Mr Pemberton said.
Fortunately the fire missed the dam and pump shed.
The property had just one injured sheep of the 3000 head.
“The clean-up is quite significant, we just need to make the paddocks safe, paddock by paddock,” Mr Pemberton said.
After 12 years of low prices, mixed with a year of good prices but three years of drought, and now a bushfire, Mr Pemberton despairs about the replacement cost.
“I don’t want free handouts, it’s not a money-making exercise,” he said.
“The money will be spread to contractors and fencing suppliers.”
Mr Bull said he had asked the government to look at what it would do with road reserves but hadn’t heard back.
“We all know they haven’t been maintained to an appropriate level and carry large fuel loads,” he said.
The DJPR statement said landholders were expected to manage risks to their assets from the potential impact of bushfire and that it was the responsibility of the owner of private land to fence their property and secure stock within their boundary.
The State Government will pay 100 per cent of the restoration costs of fences damaged on private land as a result of machinery used by fire agencies to control bushfires, or fire agency staff cutting through fences to allow access for suppression efforts.
This includes damage to fences by machinery such as bulldozers entering the property and/or constructing fire control lines, and other fire emergency vehicles obtaining access.
Local contractor, Brett Lancaster, said he had worked on every fire for the past 20 years and believed this was the worst he had ever seen in a populated area.
“Usually they’re out in the bush and stay there, fire in these extremely dry conditions does extraordinary things,” Mr Lancaster said.
Information can be found at the Forest Fire Management website by searching “recovery after an emergency”.
IMAGE: Doug Pemberton estimates he needs to replace 20 kilometres of fencing at his Sarsfield property after 800 of the 1200 acres burnt in the bushfires. Fencing contractors are already on the job putting up dog exclusion fences with an excavator working on the lines to ensure safety. K15-2063