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$2 billion national bushfire recovery fund announced

Beef Central, January 6, 2020

 

The Federal Government will establish a new agency with an initial $2 billion for a national bushfire recovery fund to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the devastating fire-front has passed.

Picture: QFES

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the National Bushfire Recovery Agency would be funded with an initial $2 billion to ensure the families, farmers and business owners hit by these unprecedented bushfires would get the support they needed as they recover.

“It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild,” the Prime Minister said.

“While the immediate focus for our emergency services and the Australian Defence Force is keeping people safe and defending against the fires hitting so many areas, we also need to be ready to hit the ground in communities where the fire-front has passed to help them rebuild.

“The Agency will ensure the work of state and territory governments is being supported and act as a ‘one stop shop’ central team to coordinate the response. We will do whatever it takes.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the initial $2 billion investment for the Agency and its recovery work would be on top of the existing disaster recovery payments and allowances which have so far seen more than $100 million worth of assistance flowing through to families, small businesses and farmers.

“An unprecedented joint effort with the states, territories and local government will be required to assist with the recovery, rebuilding and future resilience of these communities,” the Treasurer said.

“Our initial $2 billion investment help to get communities back on their feet by assisting with restocking and replenishing, rebuilding roads and telecommunications infrastructure, mental health support, attracting tourists back to the regions and helping restore the local environment and impacted wildlife.”

The Agency will be led by Andrew Colvin APM AOM and will be modelled off the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency established following the 2019 North Queensland floods, as well as the experience of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority created after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

The Agency’s key tasks include:

  • Build on the effective working relationships with state, territory and local governments, including their recovery and reconstruction bodies, and to work with stakeholders in bushfire affected communities, and relevant Commonwealth agencies to inform and integrate recovery and rebuild activities
  • Ensuring affected communities have ready access to meaningful support and all available services
  • Providing advice and recommendations to Government on the economic and social impacts of bushfire on affected communities, in consultation with relevant agencies across all levels of government;
  • Developing and coordinating the delivery of a long-term plan for the recovery, rebuild and resilience of bushfire affected communities

Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Commonwealth would continue to step up to do whatever it takes.

“We will continue to respond to changing conditions while these fires affect communities across the country,” Minister Littleproud said.

“We will help people on the fire front and people that have been evacuated from affected areas and the ADF is also helping deliver supplies such as food, fuel and medical assistance.

“When the rebuilding begins, the Commonwealth will be there to make sure communities are well-resourced.”

The Agency will work within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to Minister Littleproud. Funding for the Agency is in addition to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements that have been activated in all bushfire affected areas already with $25 million in Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance flowing to communities. The Commonwealth and NSW Governments have already committed $86 million for the recovery effort in that state and Category C assistance between the Commonwealth and Victoria is also expected to flow shortly. The funding is in addition to the Australian Government’s support for Volunteer firefighters who are eligible for up to $6,000 per person to provide for lost income.

People affected by the bushfires can claim disaster payments by calling Services Australia (Centrelink) on 180 22 66 and find more information at www.humanservices.gov.au/disaster. As soon as it is safe to do so, Mobile Service Centres will head into affected regions to assist with all Government payment services, including disaster payments.

Resources for farming communities hit hard by bushfires

As the bushfire crisis deepens across Australia, Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie urged regional communities to continue to prioritise personal safety as concern for livestock grows.

“The devastating loss of life to date underscores a critical need for cooperation and support in regional and urban communities alike,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Property damage is widespread and the task of rebuilding lives, communities and economies will be long-term.

“The outstanding work by first responders and volunteers, alongside state and federal agencies, is the first step in what will be a long path to recovery.

“I have been in contact with state Agriculture Ministers and state farming organisations to ensure we continue to work together to meet the needs of our ag sector during this emergency phase.

“That goes right through to the recovery phase which is likely to be long and hard as people, livestock and properties continue to be affected by smoke, charred surrounds and lack of feed.

“The Australian Government will stand by these communities over the long haul. We will ensure that our activities are coordinated through the National Crisis Coordination Centre, so that all states are supported in the right way at the right time.

“While the primary concern is for the well-being of people, there is also growing concern for the welfare of livestock in affected areas.

“The NSW Rural Fire Service has today asked farmers to assess the possibility of relocating livestock from affected areas. Agriculture Victoria vets are on the ground in bushfire zones ready to help farmers assess livestock right now and that will continue.

“There have been reports of stock losses in the thousands across South Australia and this figure is growing due to smoke and heat following the fires in South Australia.

“Animal welfare is the top priority under these conditions, as is disposing of dead stock and containing spread of disease as we move into the recovery phase.

“While the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)—which requires that movement of stock be tracked — still applies, getting animals to safety needs to be the focus.

“NLIS reporting can be undertaken when the animals are safely relocated. If in any doubt, contact the local department of primary industries in your state. Regardless, relocating stock during a bushfire is an enormous logistical challenge that in many cases may simply not be possible.

“That’s driving a second challenge: feeding flocks and herds in country that is often isolated from supply chains. This challenge, along with re-establishing infrastructure like fencing and safe water supplies, is likely to take months rather than weeks.

“Fodder requests and donations are managed at the state level and responsible organisations differ between jurisdictions—I encourage farmers to access these services as early as possible and thank those who have shown such generosity, with donations of fodder already on the ground across fire zones.

“My department has also offered to make veterinarians available to all states and territories to assist with stock assessments on individual farms.

“Unfortunately we know some stock has already perished and to curtail any suffering for injured stock, we expect some farmers will need to make the difficult decision to euthanize.

“I urge farmers to photograph injured and dead stock to help with insurance claims.

“In most cases state government officials have not yet been able to get onto the fire grounds to assess livestock—however several jurisdictions have indicated that they will be seeking assistance.

“We stand ready to provide that assistance as soon as it’s required.

“At the national level, we recognise that farming businesses have far more pressing priorities than levy payments.

“I have asked my department to cease any debt recovery action for levies, fees and charges for the moment in affected areas. If you have an invoice or levy notice put it aside and focus on your immediate concerns.

“And, of course, the Rural Financial Counselling Service in each state will continue playing a vital role assisting farmers during the recovery phase.

“Our farmers and their communities are resilient, but they can’t do this alone. Recovery will be an exercise in national cooperation and compassion.

“The Australian Government stands ready to assist.”

Agricultural resources

NSW

o   NSW Mental Health Line, 1800 011 511

o   Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP)

Victoria

  • State recovery assistance services
  • Fodder requests and donations: Victorian Farmers Federation, 1300 882 833
  • Stock loss and assessment: Agriculture Victoria, 1800 226 226
  • Mental health support: Latrobe Regional Hospital East Gippsland Community Mental Health Service

o   Sale, 03 5143 1212 (AH: 1300 363 322)

o   Bairnsdale, 03 5150 3444 (AH: 1300 363 322)

o   Orbost, 03 5154 1807 (AH: 1300 363 322)

South Australia

o   Regional Access, 1300 032 186

Queensland

o   Mental Health Association of Queensland

o   NQ Connect, 1300 059 625

Western Australia      

o   Crisis Care counselling service, 1800 199 008

o   Mental Health Emergency Response Line, 1300 555 788

National

Source: Federal Government

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