Seroja rebuild to take at least two years

TC Seroja rebuild to take at least two years

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The State recovery controller for ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja Melissa Pexton with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) commissioner Darren Klemm at the McIntosh & Son Midwest Expo on August 11.

The State recovery controller for ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja Melissa Pexton with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) commissioner Darren Klemm at the McIntosh & Son Midwest Expo on August 11.

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"We know these communities are resilient & we will continue to work with them in the coming months and years as they rebuild."

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THE STATE recovery controller for ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja has said the rebuild from the disaster will take at least two years, at a "bare minimum".

The statement comes only a few weeks after the Federal and State governments announced their biggest ever recovery package for an emergency event in Western Australia of $104.5 million.

Jointly funded by the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA), the funds will support continued recovery efforts across disaster affected communities in 16 local government areas in WA's North West.

Melissa Pexton, who was appointed to the role of State recovery controller for the devastating cyclone on April 15, four days after Seroja's impact, said the funding package would support a community welfare and outreach program, as well as grant programs to help residents, primary producers and small businesses to get back on their feet.

Speaking at the McIntosh & Son Mingenew Midwest Expo on August 11 alongside Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) commissioner Darren Klemm, Ms Pexton said the community welfare outreach program would bolster recovery hubs in four existing locations of Geraldton, Morawa, Kalbarri and Northampton.

"We will be supplementing some further resources, as was advised by the community, with regards to their psychological wellbeing, some community outreach through our Red Cross partners and the Department of Communities to ensure that we are not only building houses but we are reaching out to those individual community members," Ms Pexton said.

"Further to this package, we are offering reimbursement grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses and also up to $25,000 for primary producers who were impacted and to assist with the clean up process."

For those who were uninsured, Ms Pexton said DFES would be working with local governments to ensure their homes were safe and with the clean up around their properties.

"If you were insured and you've already started that process with your insurance company, you are eligible for up to $20,000 to help you build in a more resilient way, or if you're finding you are falling a bit short and are under-insured you can actually utilise up to $20,000 to assist you with your repairs and the rebuild process as well," she said.

With all of the information and eligibility requirements for the grants available on the Emergency WA website, Ms Pexton said it would not be a long turnaround process for successful applicants to be financially reimbursed.

"It would be a really good outcome if they receive the funds by the end of the month," Ms Pexton said.

While only expressions of interest had been received for the grants last Wednesday, she said now that the primary producer grants had gone live, she expected the number of applications to "pick up very quickly".

With 133,000 kilometres of the State's Mid West region affected by the cyclone in mid April and more than 900 farmers believed to have been affected, Ms Pexton said the State and Commonwealth governments both supported providing workers' accommodation "in principle".

With a record-breaking grain haul of 20 million tonnes expected this year, there are concerns around the Mid West about farmers having appropriate accommodation for workers for the upcoming harvest.

In an agricultural setting, Ms Pexton said temporary accommodation such as dongas or caravans were a possible solution to supplement existing accommodation for agricultural workers, while for builders involved in the recovery process, transient working camps being set up in Northampton and Kalbarri were a possibility.

Where existing workers' accommodation was damaged, she said the responsibility usually fell upon the property owners.

Working with each affected local government area over the past few weeks and months as well as local community groups, Ms Pexton said State government agencies had been utilised in the recovery process to make sure each community's needs were being met.

"In regional settings it's not one-size-fits-all, so we are having to talk to 16 individual local governments and communities," Ms Pexton said.

"Some are really clear and have the groundwork ready to go, others aren't as clear so at the moment it is a bespoke process of working through it, community by community."

As many historical, cultural and iconic sites were also damaged by the cyclone, the recovery package also includes funding to maintain or rebuild those assets.

Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby said the State government's priority was to ensure the best possible community-led recovery.

"This package has been developed to provide tailored recovery initiatives, as we continue what will be a long and difficult process," Mr Whitby said.

"We know these communities are resilient and we will continue to work with them in the coming months and years as they rebuild."

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