Mountains misses out as deputy prime minister fails on bushfire funding

The Federal government's own National Bushfire Recovery Agency, set up to support renewal in bushfire-affected communities, was not consulted on which regions should be entitled to millions of bushfire recovery dollars, leaving the agency and the Blue Mountains "out in the cold".

MP Susan Templeman: Mountains have been given a raw deal in the bushfire recovery funding fund announced by the deputy PM with the national bushfire recovery agency not consulted over the funds.

MP Susan Templeman: Mountains have been given a raw deal in the bushfire recovery funding fund announced by the deputy PM with the national bushfire recovery agency not consulted over the funds.

The revelation comes a year on from the ignition of the Gosper's Mountain fire, which burnt more than 500,000 hectares over four months in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. It was Australia's biggest fire from a single ignition point.

They were "vice captain picks" by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, who Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said "is a man who thinks a $30 million deal for a $3 million block of land in western Sydney is a great deal".

The Blue Mountains took a $66 million hit to its economy and the Hawkesbury $33 million from bushfires, yet neither area was chosen to be part of the $100 million regional recovery fund.

"How is this deputy prime minister choosing these regions? My local tourism industry wants to know why they have missed out," Ms Templeman said.

"When asked during a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency said it wasn't asked to consult on eligibility and was at a loss to explain why key regions had missed out," Ms Templeman told the Gazette.

The MP added that recently "we also learned that the Commonwealths bushfire recovery spend is nearly half a billion less than they are claiming publicly" after the NBRA's national co-ordinator Andrew Colvin was questioned about the bushfire support money spent to date.

Mr McCormack announced last month that the fund was for "regions whose economies have experienced the brunt of natural events, such as bushfires". It did not only exclude Blue Mountains, but some of the worst bushfire affected regions, like the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Shoalhaven, Snowy Valley and Queanbeyan were also overlooked - areas that in total lost more than 2000 homes.

Mr McCormack defended the funding and said it was in addition to "unprecedented support through more than $300 billion in emergency response measures to all communities and citizens across Australia" and that the government was "committed to ensuring that all of Australia bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic, last summer's bushfires and in parts of Australia an ongoing drought".

He said the 10 priority regions were identified by working "closely with state governments". Somehow the money will be stretched to include: all of Tasmania, the Gippsland region, Kangaroo Island, Western Australia's south west region, the Snowy Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle, the Parkes region, Cairns and tropical north Queensland, Gladstone, Mackay-Isaac Whitsundays.

"The evidence-based work with the states has also included monitoring the impact of COVID-19 in particular, using a large range of real-time data from the ABS and other sources, such as payroll and employment data, alongside information from the regions themselves, to determine the areas of greatest need," he said.