• Tony Bosworth

Hawkesbury misses out on $100m cash pot

Hawkesbury, and the Blue Mountains, which between them suffered a combined $100m hit to their economies from last year’s bushfires, aren’t on the Federal government’s Regional Recovery Partnerships list.

Evidence heard in Senate Estimates in Canberra earlier this week revealed the Government’s own bushfire recovery agency wasn’t consulted on which regions should qualify for millions of dollars of bushfire recovery money. When Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced the $100 million Regional Recovery Partnerships last month, he said the areas were chosen “because they are regions whose economies have experienced the brunt of natural events such as bushfires”. When asked during Senate Estimates yesterday, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency said it wasn’t asked to consult on eligibility, and couldn’t explain why key regions had missed out.

“The Blue Mountains took a $66 million hit to its economy and the Hawkesbury $33 million from bushfires alone,” says Federal MP Susan Templeman who lost her own house in 2013 bushfires.

“That was all in the space of a couple of months, on the back of drought, yet neither of these areas were chosen to be part of this $100 million fund.”

It’s not just the Hawkesbury which has missed out. Some of the worst fire-affected regions, like the Eurobodalla, where nearly 800 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, the Bega Valley (nearly 600 homes), and the Shoalhaven (more than 450 homes) haven’t made the cut. Snowy Valleys (240 homes destroyed or severely impacted) and Queanbeyan–Palerang (almost 80 homes) have also both been overlooked. “So you’ve really got to question what’s the criteria? Ms Templeman said.

“My local tourism industry want to know why the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury have missed out.”

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications says the regions chosen for financial help under the Regional Recovery Partnerships were chosen as they offered “a compelling contribution to national resilience and recovery as they have experienced the brunt of COVID-19 on employment level and regional economies, and they present emerging opportunities to diversify the region’s economy to drive long term national growth and resilience”.

The first year of funding is drawn from the Covid-19 Relief and Recovery Fund.

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