Our Rebuild Support Service is a key way we are helping community members in their recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires.
This service is available for people who lost buildings or outbuildings in the fires and would like help understanding their options and the planning permit process. But our Rebuild Support Service team can help with more than advice, it can also help gather the information clients need to apply for a planning permit, and even help people prepare their planning permit application.
This is work applicants would normally need to do themselves. Bushfire-affected residents can refer themselves to the service, or they can be referred by their case manager or one of the Bushfire Recovery Hubs.
We encourage people to talk to our Rebuild Support Service team early on so we can help them right at the start of their journey. While the Rebuild Support Service works to help people with the planning permit process, it is separate to statutory planning.
Think of the support service as the warm-up to get you prepared to play the match, then when a planning permit application is submitted the siren goes and the statutory planning process begins. The statutory timeframe to make a decision on planning applications is 60 days.
Rebuild Support Service Coordinator Caroline Larcher spends most of her week travelling around the shire to work with residents.
“I am the first point of contact and I speak to people about their property or what rebuild needs they have,” Caroline said.
There is no requirement to use the service, which works on an opt-in basis and is completely free. Its aim is to help people better understand the planning system to make the process smoother, based on rebuilding buildings or sheds ‘like-for-like’. The service is not available for people who want to change the use of their property; it is targeted at helping people rebuild and get back on their feet.
Caroline said some people know what they want, while others might undertake their rebuild in stages.
“They might want to start with a shed rebuild, so we’ll advise them on that and then they’ll come back to us later for their house rebuild. People who went through the fires have been through a lot; anything we can do to help them get back on their feet is a good thing,” Caroline said.
“It is understandable that some people don’t wish to rebuild on their property and need to move. Our service follows the person, not the property. So if an affected residents decides to rebuild somewhere else in the shire they can still use the Rebuild Support Service.”
Some people are advised their plans do not require a planning permit. In those cases, that will be detailed in a letter from the Rebuild Support Service, which the owners can show their building surveyor.
Caroline has found many people are confused by the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) ratings.
“People think if they have a high BAL rating it means they will have more stringent requirements for things such as fence design or water tanks, but that’s not the case.
The Rebuild Support Service can work with residents to prepare the planning permit application and lodge it with council for the standard assessment process.
“We try to resolve problems, such as working with referral agencies, before we lodge the application so it is as ready to go as possible. We can also work as an intermediary between the planners and the clients. In general, this process works well,” Caroline said.
“Some planning permit applications need to go to referral agencies, such as the CFA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“Houses are a long-term investment, so it is not about current owners being willing to live with the risk. BAL ratings and referral agencies are thinking about the risk to future owners of the property in 20 or 50 years’ time. It is about supporting people to build safer, more resilient houses.”
Bushfire-affected residents are also reminded that the Rebuild Support Service is commitment-free.
“We are here as a resource to provide and advice and help people make decisions. People don’t need to follow though and use the service – it is perfectly fine to just get advice from us and complete the rest of the process themselves.”