The Federal Government has announced an initial and immediate base payment of $1 million to 42 of the most severely bushfire impacted councils in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland to help rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen communities.
A further $18 million will be set aside to provide additional support to larger council areas which have experienced the most significant damage, with the National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator, Andrew Colvin, working with state governments and impacted local councils on determining the additional allocation.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said the Government was committed to working hand in hand with regional communities to rebuild towns and villages.
“These payments will provide immediate assistance directly into the hands of local councils to rebuild roads and infrastructure, employ staff to help in recovery activities and hold events which bring the community together and bring tourists back to town,” the Prime Minister said.
“We are moving immediately to support local councils and our funding will be in state government bank accounts by tomorrow.
“Importantly this is a base payment and just the start of our support for local communities, in what we know will be a long recovery.”
Funding will be directed to councils which have been ‘activated’ by their respective state government for Category C bushfire disaster recovery relief under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA). Payments will not require matched funding from state governments.
Currently there are 40 councils across Australia in receipt of Category C assistance, including 33 in New South Wales, five in Queensland and two in South Australia (listed below).
Funding will also be provided to the Local Government Areas of East Gippsland and Towong in Victoria in recognition of an imminent request from the Victorian Government for Category C assistance for these severely impacted regions.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the Government was backing regional communities to rebuild and recover.
“We have always known regional communities are Australia’s most resilient and in the devastation of these fires we have seen again the remarkable community spirit existing in our regions,” Mr McCormack said.
“The immediate payments to councils will boost affected economies by supporting local small businesses, farmers and trades as they rebuild, restock, replant and recover.”
Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said the focus would be on supporting local communities.
“I’ve made it clear this won’t be a Canberra led recovery, it’ll be a locally led recovery and this is our first instalment in that process. We’re empowering local governments to be part of that process today. We’re committed to rebuilding communities but also the lives of those impacted by these devastating fires,” Mr Littleproud said.
All funds will be drawn from the $2 billion allocated to the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and this is in addition to funding that is automatically available to councils through other disaster recovery arrangements.
The only condition placed on councils is that they develop a Program of Works within three months and report back to the Commonwealth in 12 months’ time.
Councils will be able to spend their $1 million payments on projects and activities that they deem essential for the recovery and renewal of their communities, including:
- Rebuilding damaged or destroyed council assets such as key local roads, bridges, and community facilities
- Employing additional local staff to take on specialist recovery or planning roles to help coordinate and plan the rebuilding effort
- Hosting new public activities and events to bring communities together and attract visitors back to affected regions
- Immediate maintenance and repairs to relief and evacuation centres
President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) , David O’Loughlin, welcomed the initial assistance package, noting that councils appreciated the rapid response.
“This money will go toward immediate needs and things councils are already doing, such as repairing fire-damaged infrastructure, but also means councils can set aside funds for future community events that can bring locals together and boost their resilience and wellbeing,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
“We also welcome the acknowledgement from Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud that local councils will be able to ‘build back better’, which is what Local Government has been consistently advocating for after earlier disasters.”
Councils to receive assistance are:
- Bega Valley
- Blue Mountains
- Central Coast
- Clarence Valley
- Coffs Harbour
- Glenn Innes Severn
- Port Macquarie-Hastings
- Richmond Valley
- Snowy Monaro
- Snowy Valleys
- Scenic Rim
- Southern Downs
- Sunshine Coast
- Adelaide Hills
- Kangaroo Island
- East Gippsland