Political war of words of over rate of bushfire recovery in Blue Mountains

Figures on how many bushfire-ravaged Blue Mountains properties have had debris cleared following the summer bushfires show our community is being left behind, according to Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman.

The latest figures provided by the government in response to a question in the Senate showed that of the 107 properties registered for debris clean-up programs in the Blue Mountains Local Government Area (LGA), just 41 had been completed by May 20.

Firefighters at Mt Wilson in December 2019. Photo: Top Notch Video.

Firefighters at Mt Wilson in December 2019. Photo: Top Notch Video.

"This represents just 38 per cent of registered properties in the Mountains," said Ms Templeman. "So four months out from the next fire season, based on these figures we are still waiting for the majority of properties damaged by the last bushfires to be cleared."

But the federal government countered that the figures quoted by Ms Templeman are a month old. The Liberal Party accused Labor of political point-scoring over the bushfire recovery.

Ms Templeman said that "on the ground we know that the clean up has been slow. And it's really hard to plan your future when there's still ruins around you".

"It's not clear how many bushfire-affected residents will miss out on the extra $25,000 for their rebuild from the HomeBuilder program because they won't be able to sign a contract or meet some of the other criteria in time," she said.

"Bushfire victims are being left behind by the Morrison Government's dawdling on the recovery process.

"The National Bushfire Recovery Agency website states an estimated $65.4 million in damage was caused to the Blue Mountains local economy due to these bushfires - and that is pre-COVID.

"How is the community expected to recover from the social and economic impacts of the bushfires and coronavirus when people can't even get the debris of their fire-damaged properties removed in a timely, transparent manner?"

Liberal Senator Marise Payne said on-site assessments need to take place before a property can be eligible for clean-up.

"As of 17 June, Laing O'Rourke have confirmed that of the properties eligible to be cleared, 31 of 39 properties have been cleared in the Blue Mountains," she said.

"Nearly 80 per cent of properties assessed as eligible to be cleared have been cleared as part of the program.

"The clean-up effort can be sensitive for property owners and the last thing that anyone needs at this time is political point scoring."

She said the "figures recently cited by the Member for Macquarie are almost a month old".

NSW Upper House Liberal MP Shayne Mallard said it was "disappointing to see Labor playing politics on the bushfire recovery".

"This is not about simply bulldozing all the properties but a much more nuanced, time tailored response to each property and the impacted owner's needs."