State and Federal Government support should be provided to assist the Mallacoota abalone co-op to re-establish its processing plant and expand the industry in the region, according to Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.
Mr Chester inspected the burnt out AFCOL plant with State MP Tim Bull this week, and announced he would support a grant application to get the facility operating as soon as possible.
“The abalone industry is synonymous with Mallacoota and a critical part of the regional economy,” Mr Chester said.
“While insurance will meet some of the re-establishment costs, it’s time to develop a broader role for the abalone sector and invest in more value-adding opportunities to grow extra jobs for Mallacoota.
“Both levels of government should support a major upgrade of the co-op as part of the bushfire recovery effort.”
Mr Chester and Mr Bull also met with locals and emergency service workers, including Country Fire Authority volunteers, and stopped by several businesses to see how relief and recovery efforts were progressing.
“The impact of this bushfire has intensified the isolation for many people, unable to move freely in and out of town,” Mr Chester said. “I wanted to return to Mallacoota this week to satisfy myself that the relief and recovery efforts were well-targeted.
“We need to get damaged house sites and public facilities cleaned as quickly as possible and support residents and local businesses in the process.
“We need to do whatever we can to support local businesses that have been directly and indirectly impacted by the fires and make sure they get a share of any contracts that are available.
“All levels of government need to work together to maximise local job opportunities, cut red tape and find the funding needed to ensure infrastructure is replaced and support our communities which are suffering.
“In particular, we also need to work with businesses that have been directly impacted by the fires to help them to recover as quickly as possible and their employees can return to work.
“These bushfires are unprecedented and so too must be the recovery effort.”
During the visit, Mr Chester attended a community-led meeting to develop a recovery program for the town.
“I’ve been impressed by the strong sense of purpose among the people who call Mallacoota home,” Mr Chester said.