The Coalition Government will provide 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 quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience.
This includes five local government areas in the New England: Armidale, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Tenterfield and Walcha.
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.
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 this additional allocation.
Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said this new assistance will supplement much work already being carried out to assist rural and regional communities.
“What this means is we will have the immediate capacity to work on things like the upgrade of roads to provide better access, upgrade more community facilities to enable further economic growth and keep populations in our towns, similar to our Drought Communities Program (DCP),” Mr Joyce said.
“In the New England, every council has already received two payments of $1 million each and this is going to be yet another boost to local towns doing it tough in the wake of drought and now bushfire.
“Those councils which have greater requirements can apply for extra assistance under the $18 million fund and get further works done.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his 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.”
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 (list attached).
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.
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 lump sum payments will be delivered by the Commonwealth by the close of business Friday to State Governments who administer payments to councils.
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; and
• Immediate maintenance and repairs to relief and evacuation centres.