More than 1000 farmers directly affected by the February bushfires will benefit from a $7-million Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund package.
The grants are to help them repair or replace farm infrastructure destroyed or damaged in the fires.
Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund advisory panel chair Pat McNamara and Premier John Brumby today said grants of $10,000 and $5000 would be made available to support primary producers to boost their business viability after the fires.
The fires destroyed or damaged thousands of kilometres of fencing with many sheds, equipment, livestock feed, generators, machinery and sadly, livestock lost. Land and water resources were also badly affected, Mr McNamara said.
The Appeal Fund has been acutely aware of the challenges being faced by farmers and these grants will help them replace destroyed or farm equipment or rebuild fencing. It can also be used to reimburse farmers who have already invested their own money to meet these costs.
Recent changes to Australian Tax Office laws which gave extra flexibility to the Appeal Fund to provide support have made the delivery of this assistance possible. We thank the Commonwealth Government for recognising the exceptional circumstances being faced by Victorians in our bushfire affected communities and the need to support those people.
The funding is in addition to assistance already delivered by the Appeal Fund to rural landowners affected by the fires through the Rural Property Assistance Scheme, which provided $5000 to rural landowners with properties greater than two hectares affected by the fires.
Under the new Primary Producers Repair and Restoration grant, farmers who did not receive the Commonwealths National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) Clean Up and Restoration Grant would receive $10,000 from the Appeal Fund.
This group is made up of primary producers who earned less than 51 per cent of their income from their farming business in 2008-09.
The Appeal Fund felt it was important for primary producers who, for whatever reason, generated less than half of their income in the last financial year from their farming business to also receive support from the Fund, Mr McNamara said.
This is because many have supplemented their incomes by taking on second jobs or having partners work off the farm and the intent of the Appeal Fund is to help those who need it the most.
Primary producers who did receive the NDRRA grant received it because they generated more than 51 per cent of their income from their farming business. This group will receive $5000 from the Appeal Fund, on top of the up to $25,000 they received from the Commonwealth.
Mr Brumby said the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund allocation would make a significant difference to farmers, supporting them to recover and move forward.
We understand that farmers in bushfire affected areas are facing the immense challenge of restoring and in some cases, rebuilding their farm businesses after these devastating fires which came on the back of a record 13 years drought, Mr Brumby said.
The Appeal Fund assistance builds on the joint Commonwealth and Victorian governments $51 million small business bushfire assistance package, changes to eligibility requirements around the amount of income derived from a farm business which have made it easier for primary producers to access assistance and our Governments support to the VFF to assist it to deploy volunteers to help fix or replace fences.
Victorians and people from across Australia and the world have donated generously through Red Cross to the Bushfire Appeal Fund and I congratulate Mr McNamara and the panel for deciding on assistance that reflects the generosity and compassion in which these funds were donated.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction, Bill Shorten, said the Rudd Government was committed to standing by communities as they recovered and rebuilt.
“We have been working with the Victorian Government and local councils and directing significant support to the bushfire-affected communities from day one, Mr Shorten said.
“Last month we announced changes to tax laws to give the fund wider powers to help people and communities hit by the fires, which is what the many Australians who donated would want.
“I am delighted the Fund has been able to help farmers who have been affected by these fires because of the changes.”
The NDRRA Clean-up and Restoration Grant provided a one-off grant to primary producers who suffered direct physical damage as a result of bushfire for clean up, removal of debris, animal welfare and business restoration. Hobby and smaller-scale farmers are not eligible for this payment, but can receive the Rural Property Recovery Assistance package.
The Rural Finance Corporation will administer the Primary Producers Repair and Restoration payments on behalf of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.
The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund has raised $386 million, with $322 allocated to a range of initiatives and program to support bushfire affected individuals, families and communities. To date close to $200 million of this has been dispersed.