National

Victoria government launches Wye River rebuild

Houses rebuilt in Wye River and Separation Creek will have to meet strict new fire zone regulations, but residents will receive government help to fast-track new permits and plans.

The burnt out hills above Wye River.
The burnt out hills above Wye River. Photo: Jason South

The state government is set to announce a $2.75 million relief package for the fire-ravaged communities, including $1 million to help support local business and community assets and groups, including the surf life saving and the local CFA brigade.

The package comes as the United Firefighters Union escalates its campaign against the handling of the Wye River fire, formally requesting that the coroner investigate including whether the fire should have been extinguished prior to Christmas Day.

The coroner has the power to investigate non-lethal fires and the union has raised questions about the use of backburning to fight the blaze that was ignited by lightning on December 19.

Authorities have stood by their processes and strategies and the Inspector-General of Emergency Management is reviewing the whole operation.

Under the government's assistance package, to be launched on Monday, help will be provided for demolition and clean-up of fire affected properties.

The fire has created a number of challenges for rebuilding in the popular surf coast holiday town, including erosion and land stability, bushfire management and retaining local character.

The government is working with the Colac Otway Shire to fast-track and streamline the rebuilding process, including a 'one stop shop' for all building, planning and environmental regulatory approvals.

Certain mandatory notice periods will be removed for the rebuilding of new houses.

In the wake of the Black Saturday Royal Commission, building standards in areas of high bushfire risk were made tougher and all rebuilt homes will be required to meet these standards.

Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett said it was a complicated rebuild process which is why a special office had been set up.

"This is making sure that people have a right to rebuild, they don't have to go through these hoops. They can go to one place and be personally case managed," she said.

"It's designed to make it painless, seamless and quick. These people are dealing with enough, they don't need to be chasing different levels of bureaucracy."

Other fire damaged towns of Barnawartha and Scotsburn will also share in $340,000 for fire recovery.  

On Sunday, a closed community meeting was held in the town, including a talk from Emergency Management commissioner Craig Lapsley.

Doug Booth, whose co-owned holiday home was destroyed in the fire, said people were concerned about the cost to rebuild their homes under new fire safety building codes, including installing septic systems.

"There was a bit of heat in the room," he said.

"A lot of people feel very attached to Wye River and are concerned about the cost of rebuilding.

"They're concerned about being kept at arm's length from their own properties at the moment."

Mr Booth said the community was concerned as to whether the Colac Otway Shire Council would "step up to the mark" and the potential for the clean-up cost to blowout.

But, he said they were happy with the announcement of a "one stop shop" to assist residents if they chose to rebuild.

The Wye River fire is still burning in thick bush, something the firefighters union believes should be part of an investigation by the coroner.

The UFU, which is locked in a bitter pay battle with the state government, said the coroner should investigate tactics used to try and put out the original lightning strike fire and the risk planning and management of the burns conducted in relation to this fire.

"The coroner performs an important function in coronial investigations, as the results and recommendations may result in improved systemic changes which reduce risk to individuals and the community," UFU secretary Peter Marshall said.

"This may result in significant economic, social and environmental savings."