Councils urged to prepare as fire season looms

A pot of money and a special support unit will be available to help NSW councils prepare for the upcoming bushfire season which officially began this month.

Linda Scott

Fifty of the State’s 128 councils were subject to natural disaster declarations during the 2019-2020 bushfires and their peak body LGNSW says many are still picking up the pieces.

In a message to councils on Monday, local government minister Shelley Hancock encouraged them to contact the Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group, which has been re-established to co-ordinate council-to-council assistance.

The specialist unit was formed in January 2020 as a partnership between the Office of Local Government, Local Government NSW, the City of Sydney and the Sydney Resilience Office.

A total of 18 bushfire-affected councils lodged 60 requests for help from the unit, which matched them with other councils who were in the position to offer assistance, LGNSW says.

Cr Scott says 44 councils made 556 offers of assistance in the form of staff and equipment for asset construction and maintenance, environmental services, communications, planning and community services.

Records officers to locate planning files for damaged properties, engineering staff to conduct assessments of damaged bridges and work crews to clear debris blocking access roads were also offered.

Plant and equipment offers included tippers, off-road vehicles, excavators, waste collection vehicles, generators and bobcats, along with staff to operate the machinery. Councils also offered arborists and tree removal teams, building surveyors, data management specialists, mechanics, and town planners.

“I am once again calling on councils in a position to help other councils to come forward. Likewise, I am also calling on those councils who need a hand with bushfire preparedness to register through the specialist unit,” Ms Hancock said.

“While the initial focus will be on preparation, the unit will play a key role in matching council resources with communities in need if they are unfortunate enough to suffer more bushfires this season.”

$250m recovery fund

Meanwhile, councils are also able to apply for grants of up the $20 million under a joint $250 million state and commonwealth Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund announced last week for local infrastructure, tourism campaigns, regional events, workforce and training programs, community wellbeing and mental health initiatives and neighbourhood safer places.

Shovel-ready projects in bushfire affected areas are also being identified for fast-tracking with more information to be released in coming weeks, Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud says.

Applications for the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund open on 27 October. Guidelines and application forms can be found here.

The Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund, which is for smaller projects and is open until the 10 November 2020. Apply here.

Councils requiring help and councils in a position to offer assistance can contact the Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group at

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