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12 January 2022
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has called on the State Government to declare a fire in west Wimmera a natural-disaster event.
A Poolaijelo-Langkoop Powers Creek Fire that broke out on New Year’s Eve after crossing the South Australian Border burned grass and agricultural land.
Ms Kealy said a formal declaration of the fire as a natural-disaster event was necessary to allow West Wimmera Shire Council and people affected to access Disaster Recovery Funding support from the State Government.
In a visit to the affected region, Ms Kealy said while it was fortunate no occupied homes were destroyed, the loss of stock had been immense.
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“There is a whole raft of State Government funding assistance and support that becomes available to communities once an event has been declared a natural disaster,” she said.
“This is a catastrophic event for this region, with so much pasture, hundreds of kilometres of fence lines, extensive farm infrastructure and thousands of head of stock destroyed by fire.”
Ms Kealy stressed it was important the government declared it a natural disaster to ensure all relevant support services were available to affected people.
“While everyone locally is doing an amazing job in providing support to the families affected by the fire, support services are extremely limited in the region, with many already overwhelmed with advancing Covid cases in the area,” she said.
Ms Kealy specifically called for funding to employ a dedicated Rural Outreach Program worker for the region for the next 12 months.
“The local outreach worker has done an absolutely fantastic job over the past few days but will be unable to sustain the extra demands for the service as a result of the fires” she said.
Ms Kealy said conversation with affected landowners revealed the hardest part had been to kill stock, which had been horrifically burnt and would be unable to recover.
“These farmers have put their hearts and souls into breeding and raising these animals, often over several generations, and to have to euthanise them is absolutely the worst thing many of them will ever have to do in their farming lives,” she said.
“It is horrifying for both the farmers and their animals.”
Ms Kealy said Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, had taken too long to respond to the need for pits to be dug to dispose of stock carcasses.
“This means many farmers had to take matters into their own hands and engage a private contractor to dig their own pits,” she said.
“It’s just not good enough and the EPA needs to get its act together and resolve this significant health risk as a matter of urgency.”
The entire January 12, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!