Twenty Blue Mountains bushfire recovery projects worth $2.1 million have been funded under a new government program after the Coalition state and federal governments were criticised earlier this year for snubbing the area in economic recovery funding.
NSW Upper House Liberal MP Shayne Mallard sought to use the latest announcement to blunt Labor's recent attacks on the Coalition for favouring its own electorates in bushfire recovery funding allocations.
"Contrary to Labor's fake news and shamefully politicising bushfire recovery funding, this round of grants was always intended to support all impacted communities," he said.
But his comments were rebuffed by Labor's Federal Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, who pointed out the latest community funding was from a different program to the scheme that overlooked the Blue Mountains.
"After seeing Mr Mallard's comments, I think it's also worth noting that this funding is community recovery money - it's not related to the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (BLERF), which saw not a single cent of joint Commonwealth and State funding delivered to the Blue Mountains," she said.
"I'm glad they didn't make the same mistake with this community recovery funding, and I look forward to seeing the Blue Mountains' needs well recognised when the second round of economic funding is eventually delivered."
State Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle said it was "interesting that Mr Mallard accuses Labor of politicising bushfire recovery funding".
"The recent funding rorts by the Liberal Government, with blatant favouring of Coalition held seats, is a classic example of the furthering of their own political agenda. Recovery funding should be based on community need, not political gain. This time around our community has not been overlooked, which is exactly as it should be," she said.
Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill also labelled Mr Mallard's comments as "disappointing".
"The priority at this time should be about supporting our community to recover - after an unprecedented crises period including bushfires, a global pandemic and more recently, flooding," he said.
"It has been widely publicised that Blue Mountains City Council was shocked that our community did not receive a single cent from the NSW Local Economic Recovery Fund, valued at $177 million, despite submitting more than 20 shovel-ready projects."
The mayor said he welcomed the new funding - "but it's still not enough".
"We have a local economy that relies heavily on tourism. Our local businesses have suffered for almost 18 months now.
"Council continues to support our community, and deliver important projects that are stimulating the local economy, during this difficult period. But we can't do it alone.
"We need further funding assistance from the state and federal governments, as the road to recovery will be long for our community."
The 20 Blue Mountains projects are among more than 153 others approved under the second stream of the Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund (BCRRF).
Liberal Senator Marise Payne said the projects would be driven locally.
"Both state and federal levels of government are yet again putting their support behind community-led solutions," she said.
"The funding package is focused on boosting community well-being, connectedness, social recovery, and future disaster resilience because we know how important this is to our long-term recovery effort.
"I particularly want to acknowledge the Mountains Youth Services Team and the Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre for their important work to date. I am very pleased they are each receiving funding."
Susan Templeman said there were some excellent programs included in the projects that received funding.
"I am delighted to see the support for the youth mental health first aid training for Year 10 students in Blue Mountains public high schools. I was pleased to help kick off fundraising late last year for this very important program, driven by young people, to equip them to better support each other," she said.
"It's also good to see the vision for Mt Wilson to upgrade its village hall facilities being realised, as well as the music program for the community. The funding for both the Mount Tomah community and the Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre, which has been very active in supporting fire-affected communities on the Bells Line of Road, is also very welcome."
Senator Payne said the delivery of BCRRF funding coincides with a variety of supports in response to the NSW storm and flood events which affected the Blue Mountains.
"As a result of the 2019-20 bushfires, over $10 million, representing over 9000 payments, has been directed into the bank accounts of locals under the disaster recovery payment," she said.
"This is the same financial assistance program for which eligible locals are now able to apply for.
"As with our ongoing bushfire recovery effort, the federal government will work hand-in-hand across the community to deliver the essential on-the-ground supports as required."
The full list of Blue Mountains projects are:
- CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains ($50,150): Trees and Minds project will see a connection of both practical needs (burnt tree removals that were not removed earlier and have become dangerous) with mental health supports through links to local counsellors for longer-term recovery support.
- CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains ($63,000): Cool Kids Bush Fire Anxiety Support Program. This project will deliver Macquarie University's Cool Kids anxiety support program for school-aged children and Cool Little Kids information sessions for parents/carers of preschool-aged children and preschool staff in targeted bushfire affected areas.
- Habitat for Humanity Australia ($280,627): This project offers practical support to build community resilience, capacity, and management of bushfire prevention activities. Habitat for Humanity assists residents and volunteers to be better organised and to prepare for, and respond to, bushfires.
- Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre Inc ($43,640): Mt Tomah - Phoenix - Mental Health and Resilience. This project addresses the need for a program of activities to improve the mental wellbeing of residents in the communities, along the Bells Line of Road who were devastated during the intense bushfire of December 2019.
- Blue Mountains City Council ($95,250): Blue Mountains Local Disaster Resilience and Preparedness Strategy; Preparing Community. The development of a Local Disaster Resilience and Preparedness Strategy, in collaboration with the LEMC, Community networks and BMCC, providing a coordinated approach to building community resilience and shared responsibility in the Blue Mountains.
- corporate2community ($284,900): Increasing Resilience Capabilities, Connections and Wellbeing in the Blue Mountains Business Community. A capability building project to empower all businesses across the Blue Mountains region to increase resilience and wellbeing through stronger business connections and collaborations.
- MacKillop Family Services ($290,852): Good Grief - supporting kids and communities to recover and build resilience: Intensive community development to help vulnerable cohorts recover from the bushfires through direct program delivery and wrap around supports.
- Megalong Valley Community and Landowners Association ($26,075): The Megalong Valley HUFF Project will develop neighbourhood connection and support networks, provide training workshops to assist with emergency planning and response and enable effective communication in times of emergency.
- Outdoors NSW & ACT ($292,365): Children and Youth Active Recreation Resilience Program (RRP) - Greater Sydney/Hunter Region. RRP (Recreation Resilience Program) will increase mental capacity and resilience within at-risk children and youth who have been impacted by bushfires via two streams; After School Active Recreation and School Holiday Camps that provide life skill education.
- CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains ($67,300): Deliver the REACH psychoeducational wellbeing group for individuals with a particular condition, such as depression or anxiety as a result of, or compounded by bushfire, run by qualified Black Dog Institute-trained facilitators.
- Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre Inc ($28,384): Planting the Seeds of Recovery is a healing and learning project. Residents have the opportunity to participate in hands on workshops allowing renewing and rebuilding their gardens while learning what local native species to plant and the caring of them.
- Mountains Youth Services Team Inc ($39,600): MYST/DoE Youth Support partnership. To ensure teachers are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and year 10 students in all 4 Blue Mountains State High Schools are trained in Teen Mental Health First Aid to assist the young community to be able support their own and peers mental health.
- Mountains Youth Services Team Inc ($25,014): A youth worker available on Saturdays as a connection point for young people aged 18-24. The purpose is to connect young people socially, provide mental health support & develop employment opportunities in the setting of a Saturday Drop-In.
- Blue Mountains City Council ($250,000): Mount Wilson Village Hall Emergency Facilities Project. The village hall plays a central role in community life - and in emergency management. Recent experience in the Gospers Mountain fire highlighted functional issues affecting practical operation and volunteer safety. This project will address these issues.
- Blue Mountains City Council ($30,000): Community Day- Resilience and Education. This is a day for the Blue Mountains Community to come together to be educated, talk to experts, and get the latest information about fire safety and preparedness, to participate in an expo and also to increase connectedness within the community.
- CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains ($20,160): Community education workshops to support community recovery and well being focusing on financial matters and mental health after the bushfires.
- Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre Inc ($59,171): The Art of Recovery - A Resilience & Wellness Project. The Art of Recovery is an asset based community development art project that recognises existing skills in the community while acknowledging the value of these assets. Its practical application focuses on building relationships to increase social capital.
- Mount Wilson Progress Association Inc ($24,800): Music to Soothe the Soul. To fund a series of music events for the community. The project encourages the community to come out of their homes and share with their neighbours in a series of music concerts to renew relationships and build resilience after the impact of the fires.
- FireThrive ($113,180): How would you respond? Bushfire Preparedness Quiz and Behaviour Change Tool. An online quiz and behaviour change campaign will help bushfire-prone residents understand their strengths and weaknesses in bushfire preparedness. A personalised profile and notifications help residents be the best bushfire evacuee they can be.
- Mountains Youth Services Team Inc ($20,091): Street Art Project. Project with students from Blacktown Youth College, Lawson Campus to develop a Street Art mural based on resilience to be launched at The Street Art Walk in Katoomba which is a large tourist attraction and beloved creative space for the local community.