Margaret Abbey is the CEO at Murrindindi Shire Council.  She presented to the IPWEAvic Leadership Luncheon held on 11 November 2011 at The Gables in East Malvern, sharing some of her thoughts on the key challenges facing leaders in the reconstruction phase following natural disasters.  It is two years since the devastating bushfires in the region and a question Margaret is constantly asked is ” Are they over it yet?”   Typically year 2 to year 4 after a natural disaster are the hardest for the community with funding drying up.  The Murrindindi community however has to deal with issues relating to funding the operations and maintenance of infrastructure built by well meaning donors which has been built to a higher service level than the community is able to use and maintain.  An example is the state of the art community centre which has been built to a much higher specification than can actually be used by the local community.  Some key learnings include: –

          • need a strategic plan so that construction of new assets can be undertaken in accordance with council strategies and policies which hold the councils priorities
          • some gifts are not worth accepting as the legacy in maintenance and operation is too great a financial burden for future generations
          • involve Murrindindi in planning decisions early
          • what is the long term legacy and burden passing on to next generation
          • cost of operation and maintenance of new capital infrastructure
          • sharing knowledge, in funding and in disaster remediation with others
          • understanding asset management systems and have theses systems in place so that the new assets can be brought into the asset register
          • planning rebuild and engagement of community

The staff are very tired after 2 years of constant work and many find it hard to take leave which impacts on their health and well being.  This is one of the challenges Margaret faces as a new CEO in the organisation

Margaret suggests that working towards providing common training and common skills amongst MERO’s may assist in any future disasters as this would make swapping of personnel between organisations easier when required in an emergency situation.



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