One year ago today, large areas of Hepburn Shire were devastated by a storm that levelled forests, blocked roads, destroyed buildings, and disrupted comunications and electricity supplies. A year after the event, recovery continues.

In addition to the physical damage, the emotional trauma to the community has been substantial. Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie, acknowledged that this one-year anniversary could be a very difficult time for some members of the community. “We encourage people to check in on friends, neighbours and family to see how they are going,” he said.

A number of free community seminars have been held with Dr Rob Gordon, Australia’s leading trauma psychologist. Another is scheduled for 23 June at 6pm at Lyonville Hall. Registrations can be made via Council’s Storm Recovery website.

Considerable clean-up work has been undertaken since the storm. Storm-thrown timber was processed locally and distributed within the Shire, including 7,000 tonnes of firewood distributed to the community. Much of the firewood came from twisted timber that was of no practical value beyond firewood. However, salvageable timber was transported to the processing site at Romsey in the Macedon Ranges and turned into fence posts, which have been returned to Hepburn Shire and distributed to farmers and rural storm-affected landholders.

The rare pieces of the highest value timbers were sent to the Creswick Timber Training Centre for training purposes and milling. The mulch by-product was distributed locally for free and totalled around 25,000 cubic metres.

“Council has worked closely with Bushfire Recovery Victoria to facilitate public and private property clean-up, and with partner agencies to address financial, psychological and practical recovery, including ongoing one-on-one support for some severely affected residents,” said Cr Drylie.

Despite the work done to date, much remains to be done. Bushire Recovery Victoria (BRV) have just announced additional funding to assist with recovery work on community assets and public land. This will include works on key public assets like heritage railways, tourist walking trails, fire access tracks and recreation reserves.

Cr Drylie said that advocacy by the Council on behalf of the community was integral to attracting this funding. “We are really pleased with this announcement and that some important community assets impacted by the storm will restored so that they can be enjoyed again,” he said.

According to BRV, the eligible works include those required to clean up community asset/facilities or land to its pre-disaster function in preparation for any rebuilding works, including the assessment and management of hazardous trees. Some of the community assets selected in Hepburn Shire are the Daylesford Spa Country Railway, Domino Trail, Wombat Trail, Stony Creek Reserve and Lyonville to Bullarto Reserve.

However, most of the walking and cycling tracks between Daylesford and Blackwood, including the 87km Lerderderg Track, remain closed. Access for vehicles has been restored but tracks are still closed to walkers and cyclists.

Towards the end of this winter, Council is working with the Creswick Timber Training Centre to offer free chainsaw classes in the hope that participants can learn new skills, and by joining a community group, utilise those skills within a supportive team. Participants can then clean up their own properties and assist others to do the same. For more information or to register, visit the Council Storm Recovery webpage.

As a measure to encourage wildlife back into the forest, a successful habitat program has seen nest boxes and native trees distributed within the community.

The Storm Recovery team will be launching their photography competition to encourage community members to submit photos and stories of their storm experiences. A commemorative book will be completed by the end of 2022, with residents encouraged to submit their stories, memories or reflections of the storm.

If you wish to talk with one of Council’s Storm Recovery team, call 4373 7373. For more information on Council’s efforts to recover from the storm, visit the Storm Revovery webpage.