More than 31,000 tonnes of wood, stump and branch debris has been collected by Yarra Ranges Council since the June storm ripped across the municipality causing incredible destruction and distress to community members.
The June 9 and 10 storm and flood event caused an unprecedent level of fallen and hazardous trees across the impacted areas of the Yarra Ranges, damaging homes, Council infrastructure, parks and bushland.
Over the past three months, Council has been working with teams of contractors across multiple public sites to assess hazardous trees that needed immediate work, to make safe any risks to life and property, and to open roads, parks and bushland.
These works are also focused on reducing the enormous fuel load that now exists, prior to the upcoming bushfire season.
Teams have been working hard on the clean up, using heavy equipment including 78 excavators, 72 tipper trucks, 37 chippers and 33 towers ranging from 12 metres to 55 metres. So far, an estimated 5,652 truckloads of tree debris have been collected, amounting to around 31,651 tonnes.
Yarra Ranges Mayor Fiona McAllister said the landscape and topography of the Dandenongs in particular had been fundamentally changed due to the unprecedented impact of the massive and life-threatening storm event.
“As a result of the storm we lost an estimated 25,000 trees, and this has had a big impact on the natural habitat which is something our residents love and value,” Cr McAllister said.
“There is a lot of sadness in the community related to these losses and we understand the community’s drive to ensure the value of these trees is appreciated.”
Crews are continuing to process the material into mulch and firewood for use in the community, as well as retaining logs for community projects. In just three weeks, the branches picked up through Council’s Special Storm Event Tree Branch Collection have been turned into mulch, with volumes so far estimated to be equivalent to five Olympic sized swimming pools.
As part of the clean up process, Council has set up 20 mulch sites, allowing community members and community groups to collect mulch for their own use.
Council is also using the mulch on many of its garden beds across the municipality, and on the new Yarra Valley Trail, as well as implementing landscape and habitat logs back into the parks and reserves.
As many of the fallen trees have been cut into small sections to remove them from roads and parks, this material is being turned into firewood, some of which has been provided to community groups to store and dry for use, or distributing to community members in need of support.
Free firewood is also going to be available for residents to collect from a range of sites in late September. A firewood registration process for interested community members will be put in place through Council shortly.
Additionally, Council is working to provide appropriate community-led projects and organisations with wood and logs, to provide benefit to the community out of such devastation and ensure some of it remains in the area.
Cr McAllister acknowledged Council, contractors and other agencies and operators for the work already undertaken during such difficult circumstances.
However, she said that realistically, the extreme impact of the June 2021 flood and storms meant Council and other agencies would be cleaning up for months, and the recovery of some parts of the municipality could take years.
“Council teams have worked really hard to open up many Council-owned public parks and bushland as well as cleaning up the overwhelming amount of tree debris and using what we can locally and for the community,” Cr McAllister said.
“Making parks and bush trails safe for residents to exercise is even more important in a Covid-19 environment when movement of residents is restricted, so our community members can get some relief during lockdown.
“Significant progress has been made but as we know, the damage was extensive, and the full amount of work required over time is beyond the capacity of Council and residents. There is much work still to be done.”
Council continues to discuss with Government the support required for recovery, on top of the work of Bushfire Recovery Victoria, which has responsibility for clean up on private land.
The restoration and clean up is important for the community as part of the long recovery process, and to relieve the stresses that such a significant event places on the community.
More information about the clean up and the availability of mulch www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au. Keep an eye out for more information on the firewood registration process.