The Black Saturday fires in 2009 devastated many towns in regional Victoria (Australia). The fires claimed 173 lives and devastated over 2,000 homes and 3,500 structures. As part of the bushfire recovery process, Arup has been providing pro bono support to help rebuild communities affected by the fires. In the central Victorian township of Yea, Habitat for Humanity is undertaking its largest project to date. 25 safe, decent and affordable new homes will be built, over two to three years on 2.1 hectares of land. Since early 2010, seven Arup staff* have been helping Habitat for Humanity and Murrindindi Shire Council to rebuild the Yea heights community.
Early and valued contributions
Yea is a rural township of approximately 1000 people located 110 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, and is close to many of the communities impacted by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires. Arup responded to Habitat for Humanity’s call for technical skills and expertise to assist in the disaster relief effort. “For Arup, being involved meant we could contribute in a meaningful way,” comments Conor Monaghan from Arup’s Project Management team. “I think this kind of work is right at the core of Arup’s beliefs and drivers, being part of something like this makes you feel that you’re giving back or at least helping people in need in some way.” Our volunteers were involved from early stages of the project, preparing designs and specifications for civil works including civil services and design for the revised layout of the community, incorporating road, storm water, water sewer, power, telecoms, and gas. We also provided sustainability advice in regards to design and environment, working with the council on behalf of the client.
One of the great challenges for this project was dealing with community concerns over the impact of population flight in an area close to, but not directly affected by the fires. “Dealing with Council and local opposition to the development was certainly the greatest challenge,” comments Conor. “Making sure we had addressed every detail to satisfy Council was hard work, and allaying the fears of the community proved to be a struggle for all concerned.” “We overcame these challenges through sheer perseverance and seeking advice from some very experienced people within Arup, such as Peter Bowtell, Andrew Batts, Andrew Wisdom”.
Paying it forward!
While the benefits for Habitat for Humanity and the communities involved are many, Arup also gain significantly from these experiences. “Working on this project, I found it difficult, but fascinating… I gained professional experience that I have brought back to my position in Project Management and it’s motivated me to continue to bring these kind of opportunities to the attention of my colleagues”.
The successful completion and handover of these five homes is a credit to all who have been involved over the past 12 months. In total – we have had 50 staff members help in the construction of these homes, along with 10 family members, partners and friends.