RESIDENTS from one of Black Saturday's worst-affected shires are still waiting for recovery money to be sent their way.Flowerdale resident and former mayor Lyn Gunter said most of the bushfire recovery money allocated to Murrindindi Shire from the state and federal governments and The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund had been spent on council buildings, tradesmen's wages and accommodation for government officials, leaving families without homes or hope.
"When people from around the world donated what ended up amounting to an unprecedented $401 million to VBAF, they imagined they were donating to help people rebuild homes,'' Ms Gunter said.
"I don't think anyone realised it would go to building walking trails, noticeboards and council buildings.''
Ms Gunter said of the $57 million of grants allocated to Murrindindi Council for new or replacement buildings, $31 million had been used directly for council projects, which the council is now responsible for maintaining.
"It takes about $1.8 million a year to maintain this new infrastructure, which council doesn't have because of the low rate base and debt from fire recovery,'' she said.
She said the council also used $500,000 to devise the Kinglake-Flowerdale-Toolangi Strategic Recovery Plan, which was in limbo "because they're not quite sure how to go ahead with it''.
Murrindindi councillor Andrew Derwent said council was working hard to recover from the fire.
"This is the first new council after the 2009 fires and we all agree that it is a council that will transition from mostly recovery function to what I would describe as normal duties,'' Cr Derwent said.
Ms Gunter said of the 47 homes in her Flowerdale street, 15 were burnt and only nine had been rebuilt.
"In one street, there were 49 houses before the fires and 45 burned. Of these only 15 were rebuilt,'' she said.
"We recently did a drive around and worked out that about 55 per cent of houses were yet to be rebuilt.
"Only 35-40 per cent of Marysville has been rebuilt - it's appalling.''
More than 1200 of the 2133 homes destroyed in the 2009 bushfire season were in Murrindindi. The next worst-hit shire was Yarra Ranges with 175 houses lost.
Ms Gunter was mayor during the 2009 fires, but resigned later in the year after objecting to rate rises and funding allocation.
She said last year's Murrindindi budget received 330 submissions expressing concerns about several proposals in the Murrindindi Services Review.
"This number of submissions was a 3000 per cent increase on the average submissions received by council for budget issues, which should have been a red flag,'' she said.
Murrindindi residents have had 6 per cent rate rises every year since the fires, with rumours this will jump to 8.5 per cent in 2013-14 - rumours denied by Murrindindi Council.
In the 2012-13 budget, the council said it aimed to keep rate increases at 6 per cent or less for the next 10 years.
"This will only increase because land has been bought as part of the Government's buyback program, meaning about 43 per cent of land in the shire is now non-ratepaying, DSE land,'' Ms Gunter said.
Of the $401 million VBAF total, about $361 million has been paid out.
Of the funds remaining, $3.5 million has been allocated for psychological support and youth, $2.9 million for on-ground assistance, $500,000 for the bereaved and $100,000 for people dispersed or displaced.
Another $13.5 million has been allocated community projects in areas hardest hit.
VBAF spokesman Jason Frenkel said of the $401 million raised in the appeal, about $321 million went to individuals and families and $79 million went to community rebuilding initiatives - $43 million of which was dedicated to the Community Projects Program.
"The lion's share of the fund went to Murrindindi Shire because it was the worst affected, and the vast majority went to individuals,'' Mr Frenkel said.
"All of the money allocated to community-rebuilding initiatives was based on the priorities of local residents, who nominated the projects and programs they saw as being important in the community's recovery.
"This wasn't money for council projects.''