MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) (13:15:04) — Last week Minister Pulford and I visited fire-affected areas in the south-west to meet with local families, some of whom have lost so much, including their family homes. There were many fires on the St Patrick’s Day weekend, but the four main blazes at Terang, Camperdown, Garvoc and Gazette exacted the greatest toll. The material losses caused by these fires include 26 houses, 63 sheds, thousands of livestock — dairy and beef cattle and sheep — a great deal of pasture and hay, fencing and other farming assets. Thankfully, no lives were lost.
As always in a crisis, our local communities have come together to help those in need. I congratulate the Country Fire Authority and emergency workers on a fantastic and extraordinary effort that has been so appreciated by these rural communities. Their work has been truly remarkable.
Two of the four peat fires have now been extinguished, and a 1-kilometre zone has been defined as a high-impact area. There will be carbon monoxide and small particles in the smoke, so those living within the 1-kilometre zone are encouraged to relocate each night for respite from the smoke. All elderly patients have been relocated from the Cobden hospital. The Cobden special development school has relocated to Terang for the rest of this term. The primary and secondary school students will relocate to Camperdown for the rest of the week.
This government, as always, is supporting those in fire-affected areas. A community relief fund has been established, and people can apply for emergency re-establishment assistance plus personal hardship assistance payments for immediate needs. Agriculture Victoria is assisting with animal welfare concerns and technical support, and it is conducting damage assessments. We will monitor the need for further support in the recovery.
In the meantime my thoughts are with everyone on the ground involved with the recovery effort. I encourage them to try and get some sleep, if possible, and indeed some time with their treasured families. I also take this opportunity to thank the Corangamite Shire Council, particularly Jo Beard, the mayor, and the CEO, Andrew Mason; Southern Grampians Shire Council; Moyne Shire Council; and Colac Otway Shire Council.