Calm after the storm

Claude Cullino happier after the debris was cleared on Wednesday 22 May. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS. 409153_05

By Emma Xerri

After months of being told by the council and various agencies that the cleanup was “not their job,” Emerald locals finally celebrated the beginning of the roadside storm debris cleanup.

“It’s been a bit of a saga,” said Emerald Village Association committee member Claude Cullino, who was “bitterly disappointed” with how the clean up was managed.

“When you’ve got all the debris still left on your front naturestrip, it’s in your face everyday. You can’t just get over it, because it’s there every morning when you wake up.

“It was affecting the mental health of not just my family, but everyone along the street.

“There’s a whole community that suffers when they are forced to wait 14 or 15 weeks for a cleanup.”

With the cleanup officially commencing on Wednesday 22 May, Mr Cullino and fellow Emerald residents were looking forward to a return to normalcy.

And blaming the delays on a gross “lack of coordination,” Mr Cullino was “ecstatic” to be seeing works taking place.

“It’s just a pity it took such a long time to do what is quite an easy task,” he added.

“When I called around to enquire, I found out there were one or two crews doing the cleanup.

“How is it that, for a storm in the Dandenongs, there are only one or two crews cleaning up?

“The council agreed they probably needed 10 crews to do it, but they didn’t have 10 crews.”

Also frustrated by the disorganisation of his own council was Menzies Creek resident, Terry Barrow.

“Residents are fed up with dealing with a council that is only concerned about looking after its main suburban area and ignoring the fringe,” he said.

But after waiting a month and a half for their cleanup to begin, Mr Barrow and his community were glad to have the stress of the debris, particularly during fire season, now behind them.

“It took a while,” he laughed.

“But they’ve actually gotten around to it, and done a pretty good cleanup of our area, more than I would have expected.

“And we’re a lot happier now.

“I think the Cardinia Council was just completely unprepared.”

Working since March to collect storm debris from 543 roads in 19 townships across the shire, The Cardinia Shire Council – in a Facebook post on 15 May – acknowledged the delays, thanking affected locals for their patience as they prioritise the most urgent works.

“Due to the large volume of debris that needs to be collected, we understand that the clean-up may be taking longer than expected,” they wrote.

“With more than 50 per cent of the program now complete, Council will continue to collect storm debris despite Emergency Recovery Victoria’s (ERV) on-the-ground support of the program coming to an end.

“We thank our storm-affected communities for their understanding and patience as we continue clean-up efforts.”