12 July 2023

Federal Government to fast-track infrastructure disaster recovery funding to states

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Lismore floods

Aerial imagery of the devastation around Lismore, NSW during the 2022 floods. Photo: ADF.

The Federal Government has announced it will advance nearly $1.8 billion in funding to the states to help ongoing efforts to repair roads, bridges and other public infrastructure in the wake of devastating floods, cyclones and bushfires in recent years.

The funding will come through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) established in January 2022 to provide funding as recommended by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Since then, funding has been allocated to 332 local government areas (LGAs) for 65 disasters.

DFRA funding is usually allocated after a state makes an audited claim for financial assistance once reconstruction works are underway or completed. But the government has recognised that concurrent disasters combined with the impacts of COVID have meant it has been difficult to start these works in a timely manner.

Therefore, the $1.8 billion will be made available upfront and represent about 40 per cent of the planned DFRA funding for 2021-22 and 2022-23. The government said the funding program was offered to all disaster-impacted states which had reconstruction costs over the threshold for Commonwealth contribution, with all but Victoria accepting the offer.

A breakdown of the funding shows NSW will receive $887.7 million in advance funding, Queensland $758.4 million, WA $93.9 million, SA $42.9 million, and Tasmania $4.88 million.

READ ALSO Two men missing, towns awash as flash flooding hits region

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain said the funding allocation was in response to calls from the states, local governments and peak bodies.

“During the Australian Council of Local Government conference in Canberra this month, mayors and council representatives were clear about the growing need for more up-front help, and I’m very pleased the Albanese Government has been able to deliver that so quickly,” she said in a July 3 release.

“Councils are on the frontline of disasters, and we need to ensure they are adequately supported both in planning for and recovering from disasters.”

Flooding in the Goulburn suburb of Eastgrove in October 2022. Photo: David Haynes via NSW SES Goulburn Unit Facebook.

Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery, Senator Tony Sheldon added: “With many communities suffering from reoccurring disasters, it’s clear the financial burden is weighing on flood-impacted regions.

“When I visit communities, undoubtedly the recovery workload, and the costs associated with that are creating challenges for local councils – they’re finding it particularly difficult to keep up with repairs to roads and other infrastructure such as bridges, culverts, levees, bike lanes and footpaths.

“These payments have already been delivered to the states, and we’ve made it clear we expect it to be hitting the ground quickly.”

READ ALSO Goulburn Mulwaree declared natural disaster zone following floods

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president, Councillor Linda Scott, said the advance payments would assist disaster-impacted councils in regional and remote areas.

“This fast-tracked federal funding will play a key role in helping our disaster-impacted communities recover and rebuild,” Cr Scott said.

“We have consistently advocated for the need for faster disaster recovery payments, and we are thrilled the government has heard our call and responded with this once-off advance payment.

“It’s also fantastic to see this announcement is a direct and positive response to the Government re-establishing the Australian Council of Local Government.”

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.

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