National bushfire recovery agency

The Federal Government has announced 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, “It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild.”

He assured that, “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.”

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.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg clarified that 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’s key tasks will 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, “We will continue to respond to changing conditions while these fires affect communities across the country.”

“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.  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.

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.