The scars of savage storms that ripped through Victoria last week will be etched into our landscape for months to come.
The clean-up will be long, and communities are calling for common sense solutions to fast-track recovery efforts.
The immediate toll has been disastrous.
Two Victorian lives were tragically lost.
Flooding and catastrophic winds wreaked utter devastation on dozens of family homes, farms and communities in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland.
The work of our emergency services volunteers and staff, who responded to thousands of calls for help across the state, undoubtedly saved lives and protected property.
After two horror years of catastrophic bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and now severe storms, their commitment to supporting and protecting our regional communities when we need it most has not gone unnoticed.
I toured the storm-hit region on Monday this week with local Nationals Members of Parliament Melina Bath and Danny O'Brien to hear first-hand from the worst hit communities.
The residents were banding together to rebuild homes, fences and buildings and to restore road access to homes and communities.
But it will take months to recover, particularly in those communities that are still reeling from the 2019-20 January bushfires.
Despite the hardships of the past 19 months, there was a clear sense of resilience and support as community members united to help each other get back on their feet.
And in these times of hardship, government also has a clear role to play in supporting communities through the recovery.
Financial assistance - as the Commonwealth Government has provided in the form of disaster relief payments - is one such support.
But it is also about driving practical, common sense solutions that can be implemented on the ground and tailored to each community's unique needs.
Hundreds of uprooted trees still block access to homes and in state forests.
Locals are calling for roadside firewood collection rules to be changed to allow local people to lead the clean-up and make use of a resource that will otherwise go to waste.
Permits can be obtained for council-managed roads.
But current rules prevent firewood collection along VicRoads-managed roads.
Meanwhile, the autumn firewood collection season in designated parts of our state forests will close on June 30.
It will take many more months to properly restore road access if we don't take the opportunity to put common sense rules in place to support the clean-up.
This will also ensure a valuable resource doesn't go to waste.
The Labor Government must listen to the calls of local people.
It needs to temporarily change the rules to allow these fallen logs to be collected for firewood.
We must make sure local people have the tools to support each other, and their community, with recovery efforts.
The story Rule change needed to help clear roads and use storm-damaged trees for wood first appeared on Stock & Land.