'Every community is different': Further bushfire relief welcomed as priority projects highlighted

The government's latest package includes $448.5 million to be shared between affected communities to help fund projects and recovery plans. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
The government's latest package includes $448.5 million to be shared between affected communities to help fund projects and recovery plans. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

The federal government has announced its latest $650 million bushfire relief package, as cleanup work starts on ravaged communities more than four months after the 'Black Summer' devastation.

The package includes $448.5 million to be shared between affected communities to help fund projects and recovery plans via "local voices and local governments", as part of "cost-sharing arrangements" with the state.

Bega Valley Shire Council general manager general manager Leanne Barnes welcomed the news this week, and has called on the community to share their recovery ideas.

"I can hear our advocacy and the needs of local communities being reflected in this program," she said.

"In the dialogue we've had leading up to today's announcement we've strongly made the point that every community is different and that every community is at a different point in their recovery.

"There is not a one-size-fits-all [approach], and this program respects that and gives each of our bushfire impacted communities a voice and allows us to reflect community needs."

Newly elected mayor Sharon Tapscott said raising the height of Brogo Dam "to improve water security and farm sustainability" is just one priority project for local government.

Prime minister Scott Morrison during the recent bushfire emergency.

Prime minister Scott Morrison during the recent bushfire emergency.

"East-West connectivity via the Snowy Mountains Highway with an upgraded Brown Mountain link supporting B-Double access, as well as the Bega Pool renewal, Merimbula Boardwalk renewal, and town centre revitalisation projects in Eden, Merimbula, Bermagui and Bega - just to name a handful of our priority projects," she said.

"And now that there is money to support these ideas I expect there will be added energy and drive in the conversations we have with our community,"

Prime minister Scott Morrison said the National Bushfire Recovery Agency will need to help as many as 18,600 families and businesses in bushfire-affected areas.

"The same communities that were hurting most from the bushfires are hurting from the impacts of COVID-19. The impacts have been devastating," Mr Morrison said.

"This funding injection comes as the damage from the bushfires has made itself clear in the weeks and months after they passed and regions have been finalising the sorts of projects they want to get underway to build back better.

We have a number of shovel ready projects and look forward to working with the state and federal governments on delivering for our community.

Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes

"Every community is different and every community is at a different point in their recovery. That's why the projects that these funds will support are not one-size-fits-all - they will reflect community needs.

"I urge local communities to work with their state governments and to provide the National Bushfire Recovery Agency with their priority projects as soon as possible."

Emergency management minister, Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, said he has "always wanted a locally led recovery, not a Canberra led recovery" of bushfire affected communities.

"We're working side-by-side with families, small businesses, primary producers and the tourism sector to deliver a well thought-out economic recovery as quickly as possible," he said.

"We know and have seen firsthand just how severe the impact from the bushfires and now COVID-19 has been. The past six months have been incredibly tough for so many Australians.

"To date, the efforts of every level of government have been focused on emergency relief, the restoration of basic services, clean-up operations and the immediate wellbeing needs of people in the most severely impacted communities.

"While we recognise not all communities are at the same point of recovery, some communities are starting to consider longer-term planning. We're here to support them with opportunities to rebuild."

Despite recent criticism from the Labor Party over their handling of the aftermath of the bushfire emergency, Mr Littleproud said "communities should know that our government will be with them every step of the way".

Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

"The LNP have forgotten about the people of Eden-Monaro," Labor leader Anthony Albanese Tweeted on Wednesday while touring the region with the party's candidate for the electorates upcoming byelection, former Bega Valley mayor Kristy McBain.

"We've been asking for support for weeks now, but on top of that we [Australia] have the coronavirus, and that package has come quickly," she said at a local business forum with Mr Albanese in March.

"Unless there is ongoing and continuous support you are going to see communities implode."

The government's new package also includes a $15 million subsidy for the forestry industry aimed at assisting with "the increased costs of transporting burned salvaged logs over long distances to surviving timber mills or storage sites".

Primary health networks will receive $13.5 million for mental health, $149.7 million has been allocated for habitat regeneration and weed, pest and erosion management, and $27.1 million for strengthening telecommunications.

Ms Barnes said council has been told the latest round of funding will be fast-tracked "where possible", with job creation a priority.

"We have a number of shovel ready projects and look forward to working with the state and federal governments on delivering for our community," she said.

"But some communities are not ready to consider long-term recovery just yet and they need to know that when they are ready all levels of government will respond."

This story 'Every community is different': Further bushfire relief welcomed as priority projects highlighted first appeared on Bega District News.

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