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.
The Prime Minister 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 the Department of Human Services website. 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.