Long-term solutions needed for fire-affected communities

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed the State Government’s commitment of additional funding for bushfire-affected councils and communities but will continue to push for longer term solutions that build resilience into at-risk communities.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the government had committed $25 million towards clean-up efforts and waiving waste levy fees for residents and councils disposing of bushfire-generated waste, as well as $1 million to volunteer organisation BlazeAid to assist families affected by bushfires.

“Councils across NSW are working hard in the aftermath of last week’s bushfires that destroyed an estimated 530 homes, and the State Government’s timely support is most welcome,” Cr Scott said.

“But local governments have been seeking significant and more lasting changes to funding that would build greater resilience in regions dealing with natural disasters for some time now.

“Longer term solutions are critical to reduce risk and increase capacity for withstanding future natural disasters, such as fire and drought.”

Councils attending LGNSW’s Annual Conference last month unanimously backed Moree Plains Shire Council’s motion to push State and Federal treasurers on natural disaster funding arrangements.

“Councils need funding that not only reflects communities’ capacity to recover from a disaster, but also builds future resilience so they are better equipped to endure them,” Cr Scott said.

“We continue to call on the Federal Government to amend existing Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements so that, when infrastructure is replaced after a natural disaster, it is replaced with something more resilient and better able to withstand future events.

“LGNSW is proud to be partnering with The University of Sydney to release an updated set of specifications for broken glass, crumb rubber and other materials in road pavement to create stronger, longer lasting roads that are better able to last through natural disasters.”

Cr Scott said numbers of metropolitan councils had thrown support behind regional councils battling natural disasters, such as City of Sydney promising $300,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS), $300,000 for the Country Women’s Association of NSW Drought Aid Appeal and an offer to provide infrastructure and services support to affected councils.

Other metropolitan councils providing support to northern regions include South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, which will donate $110,000, and Lane Cove, which pledged drought aid to sister city Gunnedah this month.

NSW councils and their staff stand ready to help recovery efforts after NSWRFS put out a call for volunteers amongst council staff qualified to operate heavy plant equipment.

Cr Scott said a call had gone to councils right across NSW, with the NSWRFS proposing to arrange transport, accommodation and meals for deployed staff.

“Councils in affected bushfire areas deserve special praise in dealing with last week’s disaster,” she said.

“Many councillors, council staff and even mayors are RFS volunteers and spent much of their time on the front lines battling the fires.

“They will also play a vital role in leading clean up and recovery efforts once the fires are extinguished.

“I look forward to working closely with councils and State Government over the next weeks and months to ensure communities are given the support they need to recover as quickly as possible as well as being fully prepared to meet any future natural disasters.”

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