18 May 2020

Farmers call for more climate action following half-a-billion bushfire boost

| Dominic Giannini
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Bushfire burning in distance at night.

The Farmers for Climate Action collective says community bushfire restoration and recovery must focus on renewable energy projects to help combat the effects of climate change. Photo: Gary Hooker ACTRFS, via ESA Twitter.

Climate-resilient projects must be the focus of bushfire recovery efforts if clean-up and restoration measures are to be “truly effective”, the Farmers for Climate Action collective has said.

The not-for-profit community group has welcomed the Federal Government’s $448.5 million funding boost for local government areas (LGA) to create region-specific economic recovery programs, but warned that regional Australia must be better equipped to deal with the effects of climate change.

Peter Holding, a farmer and volunteer firefighter, said climate change action cannot be left idle while drought and fires ravage rural regions.

“Climate change is a threat we cannot afford to ignore and is exacerbating drought impacts as well as increasing bushfire danger,” he said.

“One of the key reasons why this summer’s bushfires were unprecedented in their scale and destruction was that years of drought had made the land tinder-dry. Any recovery measures we implement now must have climate solutions and resilience measures baked in.

“This funding is an opportunity for us to start doing the long-term thinking about what it means to live in a bushfire prone region of Australia and how to build climate resilience into the recovery.”

The $448.5 million injection from the Federal Government forms part of a larger $650 million bushfire recovery package, announced on 11 May, that has also allocated $149.7 million for wildlife conservation, habitat regeneration and land management, plus $27.1 million to rebuild telecommunications infrastructure.

Australia’s sustainable forestry industries will receive $15 million to help cover freight costs of moving salvaged burnt logs to processing mills, while an extra $13.5 million is being pumped into local mental health care initiatives during the next two years.

National Bushfire Recovery coordinator Andrew Colvin said more than 100 LGAs have been declared disaster areas and 80 per cent of the damage is concentrated in the top 30 LGAs.

More than 17,000 businesses have applied for the government’s $10,000 grants, and 1700 farmers have applied for the primary producers’ grant.

Mr Holding said funding needs to go towards renewable energy projects that will bring long-term sustainability in the region and help prop up local economies.

“Projects such as wind and solar-powered microgrids are measures that shore up community resilience while reducing the threat of climate change,” he said. “They also boost the local regional economy. Such initiatives should be a priority for receiving support.

“This is also the perfect time to set up a regional resilience hub network, which would create employment in rural areas and facilitate regional community access to government initiatives, and would work with communities to enhance resilience and facilitate multiregional learning opportunities.”

The Federal Government says $538 million of the $2 billion bushfire recovery fund has been released.

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