Bushfire response taskforce for Victoria

By Jamie Salter

Eastern and north-eastern Victorian communities recovering from bushfires will receive support from the new Bushfire Response and Recovery Taskforce.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the taskforce would assist local communities in rebuilding from the disaster.

“The taskforce brings together people from the key agencies to ensure communities in East Gippsland get the right help, when they need it,” Mr Andrews said.

The taskforce will be chaired by emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp and includes senior officials from all key government departments.

Hundreds of people have fled their homes and travelled to relief centres in Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, Orbost, Mallacoota and Eden as more than 300 fires have burnt through Victoria's east throughout since Monday, December 30 to Tuesday, December 31.

Reporting directly to government, the immediate response of the taskforce will be to provide fire-affected communities with access to basic amenities such as food, water and other resources.

Mr Andrews has pledged the taskforce would avoid red tape when delivering on the needs of the communities and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the taskforce would hold groups accountable throughout the recovery process.

“The needs of these communities will change over time and the taskforce will be there every step of the way — making sure the various agencies involved in the response are providing the right support,” Ms Neville said.

The taskforce will work closely with government agencies and local councils to explain the needs of fire-affected people, with economic recovery as a predominant focus.

Federal Natural Disaster Minister David Littleproud said the Australian Defence Force had assisted in the bushfires since November 2019 and would continue to do so, along with the new taskforce.

"They have the operational management, they are the experts, and we'll continue to prosecute that the Defence Force has been involved, will continue to be involved,” he said.