Mountains misses out on $177m fund

Local Labor and Greens politicians have lashed out at the NSW government after the Mountains did not get a cent from a $177 million bushfire relief fund.

Helping out: Labor politicians Susan Templeman, Mark Greenhill and Trish Doyle serving breakfast during a shift changeover at Katoomba staging ground on December 31 2019. Photo taken by RFS crew member.

Helping out: Labor politicians Susan Templeman, Mark Greenhill and Trish Doyle serving breakfast during a shift changeover at Katoomba staging ground on December 31 2019. Photo taken by RFS crew member.

An investigation by Michael West Media revealed last week that all but $2.5 million of the fund went to coalition-held electorates.

Apart from the small grants to the seats of Cessnock and Lismore, no other ALP seat received money, nor did any seat held by the Greens or by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

State Member for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle said: "This is public money meant to help communities recover from the most devastating bushfire season in living memory, but Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro are distributing it based on pure politics, not on the basis of need.

"The walls of flame that destroyed homes and local businesses didn't give a damn about politics."

Blue Mountains Labor mayor, Mark Greenhill, said: "Any suggestion that there could be a politicisation of recovery funds is deeply disturbing to me. Indeed, if it were to be case, it would be unforgivable."

Greens MP, David Shoebridge, chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of pork barrelling over council grants, wants the inquiry extended to include the bushfire fund distribution to ensure future funds are allocated.

Blue Mountains New Greens Team council election candidates strongly welcomed this initiative.

"It's frankly outrageous that the Blue Mountains which were so severely affected by the bushfires in 2019-2020 were not even considered," said Ward 1 candidate, Sarah Redshaw.

A grant did go to Bilpin Fruit Bowl, in the Hawkesbury side of Susan Templeman's Macquarie electorate but the MP noted: "The economic impact of the fires in the Blue Mountains was estimated by the National Recovery Agency to be twice that of the Hawkesbury."

A spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW said the bushfire recovery fund was a "staged program" which was not yet complete.