AUSTRALIA – A $110 million recovery plan to help fire-affected communities rebuild after Victoria’s deadly summer bushfires has been released by the State Government as the Premier assures Victorians authorities are prepared for the upcoming season.
The bushfires that struck eastern Victoria in December and January burnt through more than 1.5 million hectares of land and killed five people.
The State Recovery Plan, released on Sunday, will fund local projects to create jobs, rebuild towns and generate long-term stability in the region over the next 12 to 18 months.
Premier Daniel Andrews said despite the strain on resources due to the pandemic, the Government had the capacity to deal with both the health crisis and a bushfire emergency.
He also warned the next bushfire season could be more challenging than the last.
“I think our volunteer, career workforce … are all working very hard,” he said.
“I’m confident we will have all the planning in place but it won’t be an easy summer. But we will be ready.”
Under the plan, more than $78 million will be provided for region-wide projects, $10 million to repair and reinstate roads, crossings and fire-tower infrastructure and $8 million to ensure the safety of the arterial road network.
A further $8 million will be used to build short-term modular homes and $5 million will be used to protect rare and threatened species.
Other initiatives under the plan include:
$8 million to build high-quality, short-term modular houses for people needing to rebuild their homes and $4.4 million to help locals plan and complete their rebuild
$4.4 million for support, services and rebates to help locals rebuild
$7.15 million to upgrade infrastructure at Cape Conran to make it visitor-ready
$4.8 million to support Aboriginal community organisations, businesses, jobs and infrastructure
$5.1 million to fund legal assistance and $2 million to provide tailored financial counselling for bushfire-affected individuals and businesses
The State Recovery Plan will also match the Federal Government’s $34.3 million in funding towards the Local Economic Recovery program.
In what the State Government has described as “an Australian first”, the plan also sets out a framework for Aboriginal culture and healing.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said the clean-up was almost complete and the new State Recovery Plan would help communities “get back on their feet”.
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the fires had devastating effects on wildlife and biodiversity.
“That’s why this funding is so important to help us continue supporting their recovery so they can survive and thrive,” she said.
The State Government has invested more than $420 million since the fires to help in the immediate response and short-term recovery.
Royal commission into bushfires slows due to coronavirus pandemic
The announcement comes after the royal commission into the bushfires was told hundreds of health policy reforms would be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including research into the long-term impact of bushfire smoke on people’s health.