Councils most severely impacted by bushfires will receive an immediate base payment of $1 million straight into their bank accounts, the prime minister has announced.
“Our local governments are the governments on the ground when it comes to trying to respond to these types of crises,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference in Canberra on Thursday afternoon.
“They need that immediate cash injection to ensure that they can move confidently and start to respond to what is happening.”
The government is providing an initial $60 million to 42 affected councils in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
The remaining $18 million will be given to councils at the discretion of National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator Andrew Colvin.
“That will be done on the basis of assessed need, talking with those on the ground in those areas and particularly the state emergency services and other agencies that are working in those areas, as well as liaising with our ADF [Australian Defence Force] teams in place,” Mr Morrison said.
“It is also to recognise that not all councils have the same population, not all councils have the same area.”
This funding comes from the $2 billion the government allocated to the recently established National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
It will be directed to councils that are either at category C assistance level or have been identified by their respective state government to be going into category C assistance.
Under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, a state government can request category C assistance for councils that have been “severely affected by an eligible disaster and there is a need for additional assistance to aid with its longer term recovery”.
The Commonwealth Government will deliver the payments by close of business on Friday to state governments to administer payments to councils.
Councils are only required to develop a program of works within three months and report back to the Commonwealth in 12 months’ time.
The prime minister said councils can spend their $1 million payments on projects and activities they believe to be essential for the recovery and renewal of their communities.
This can include rebuilding damaged roads, employing additional staff to take on recovery roles and hosting events to attract visitors back to their communities.
Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Local Government and Territories Jason Clare welcomed this announcement but said that more funding is required.
“It’s important that the federal government sits down and listens to local councils to make sure they get the resources they need to rebuild their local communities,” he said in a statement.
David O’Loughlin, President of the Australian Local Government Association, said that councils appreciated the rapid response from the government.
“This money will go toward immediate needs and things councils are already doing, such as repairing fire-damaged infrastructure,” he said in a statement.
“But also means councils can set aside funds for future community events that can bring locals together and boost their resilience and wellbeing,” said Mr O’Loughlin, mayor of Prospect, South Australia.
Councils receiving payments:
- 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
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