More immediate action is required to deliver critical bushfire recovery support for East Gippsland.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, met with Bushfire Recovery Victoria chair Ken Lay yesterday and was in contact with the Premier last night on critical recovery issues.
“It was pleasing the freight fodder and stock water cartage subsidies were introduced within 24 hours of my request being made and this will be helpful to many, but there is more to do from a State Government perspective,” said Mr Bull.
“For example, we need funds for boundary fencing where it borders Crown Land, as was provided in 2014 and more supports for local businesses which have had their tourist season ruined.
“I’m very conscious that there are parts of our region still under direct threat of fire and towns that are still cut off – and that needs to be our priority.
“But there are many other areas where the fire has passed and after the initial shock people are now wanting to begin the recovery.
“We need to see some big announcements from the Andrews Labor Government, especially for our business and tourism sector that has seen its peak summer period destroyed, on top of three years of drought.
“In addition to a marketing campaign to get the tourists back, the government should be providing some sort of cash relief to those worst-affected or we will see many businesses go to the wall and local jobs lost.
“On a positive note, East Gippsland Australian cricket representatives, Cameron White and Sophie Molineux answered my calls this week and are expected to be in Bairnsdale tomorrow to film some campaign footage, so I look forward to working with them.”
Mr Bull said some areas were beginning the mammoth task of cleaning up and help was needed from the government.
“In NSW the State Government has allocated $25 million for clean-up – we want the same for both insured and non-insured properties so that insurance claims can be dedicated to re-building, not clean up and removal of wreckage.
“If it was a good neighbour, the government would also be covering half the cost of fencing on land that abuts state forest and national parks. When we were in government for past fires we provided $6 per metre of fencing for this and over the past few days of helping with the clean-up with my Nationals colleagues, I’ve seen how much demand there will be. The rebuilding of fences will go on for months or years, but a support announcement is needed now.
“These grants will be uncapped and can be accessed by primary producers to assist with essentials like fodder and water, rebuilding fencing, hiring agricultural equipment such as water pumps, irrigation systems, horticultural netting and generators (more information 1800 900 090), but we need the State to come to the party quicker in relation to its responsibilities.
“The Federal Government’s announcement of $75,000 cash grants for farmers to get back on their feet is great; as part of a $2 billion fire response from the Commonwealth,” said Mr Bull.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said it was vital that all levels of government provided adequate support to Gippsland’s farmers.
“I welcome the freight subsidy announcement and encourage all eligible farmers to consider applying,” Mr Chester said.
“The subsidy will cover up to 50 per cent of freight costs to a maximum of $15,000 per farm business and will help ease some of the financial burden farmers are facing.
“This is only a small part of the clean-up and re-establishment costs fire-impacted primary producers are facing right now. I acknowledge there is a long way to go with recovery efforts and I will continue to advocate for the support and assistance Gippslanders need.”