Storm-hit Victorians hurt by rebuild delay

·3-min read

Residents of Victoria's Dandenong Ranges have been hit by more wild weather, even as they struggle to recover from damaging storms five months ago.

The Emerald SES dealt with 70 calls for help on Friday, while the east of the state had more than 100,000 homes without power.

But the region is still dealing with the cleanup from June storms, which left 250 properties badly damaged or uninhabitable and caused flooding in the Gippsland town of Traralgon.

With more downed trees and blackouts to deal with, those trying to rebuild homes say they are running out of patience.

"I really did lose it last week, thinking I'm just so over this," Olinda resident Rhonda Fergus told AAP.

Despite being told they would be "first cab off the rank" to have their roof repaired, she and husband Mark are still waiting for tradies to start work.

"I've lost count of the number of times they have promised to come out and not turned up," she said.

While insurance payouts can take months and COVID restrictions along with a construction shutdown in September have held things up, there's a broader feeling even local builders don't want to take the work on.

The Guest family's home in Kalorama was destroyed in June when four large trees crashed onto the roof. They have since been staying in a house paid for by their insurance.

After devoting all her time to the cleanup, Natalie Guest says trees still need to be removed from her property and she hopes demolition of her old home will begin in just under a month.

"Even with all my might, we haven't made as much progress as I would have thought by now," she told AAP.

She still can't find a builder prepared to deal with gravel road access, a sloping block and tough bushfire safety ratings, features of many properties in the Dandenongs.

"Even hills-based builders are still more interested in building Balwyn McMansions than helping their own community ... that's really disappointing to be honest," she said.

"We don't want to build Taj Mahals, we just want to be back on our spots, back home again."

A cleanup program run by Bushfire Recovery Victoria has been helping those affected in the Dandenongs and Gippsland but it says rebuilding takes time.

"There are many planning and building requirements to rebuild a destroyed dwelling and it takes time for people to work through their options," a spokesperson told AAP.

"The properties destroyed in the Yarra Ranges have bushfire and landslip risk and are in landscapes that can make rebuilding more complex."

Before reconstruction, properties have to be made safe, with dangerous fallen trees removed. About 275 have been resecured with help from BRV and work continues at 100 more.

It's estimated more than 25,000 trees came down in the storm, some up to 30 metres tall, requiring large machinery or cranes to remove them.

And it's not clear exactly who will pay for the massive cleanup operation.

Yarra Ranges Mayor Fiona McAllister acknowledges BRV's programs have provided much-needed support but says the agency has only been able to deal with "a small fraction" of the carnage.

Cr McAllister told AAP council had fast-tracked tree removal but did so on the understanding money would flow from the state government.

"While council has gotten on with the cleanup with communities and started the recovery planning process, the impacts of such a large and devastating event are well beyond our resourcing and financial capacity," the council said in a statement.

"Yarra Ranges Council is still waiting for the state government to provide clarity and certainty regarding its promise for funding support to clean-up from the June flood and storm event."

The Master Builders Association of Victoria has been contacted for comment.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting