Victorian bushfire-affected local communities are shaping their economic recovery

​​​Councils, community groups and local businesses are having a crucial say into the long-term economic future of East Gippsland and North East Victoria, with the Australian and Victorian governments announcing the opening of the $68.6 million Local Economic Recovery program.

Australian Minister for Emergency Management David Littleproud and Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville today said the program will fund local projects vital for community recovery, support economic stimulus projects, and boost industry and jobs across the fire-affected regions.

“Applications open on 29 October, so it’s time get your ideas together.” Minister Littleproud said.

“Bushfire-affected communities have suffered from multiple disasters this year, but we’re determined to support local ideas and help these communities come out the other side better.”

“Decisions about where this funding goes will continue to be shaped and influenced by the communities that stand to benefit.”

“We’re putting the call out for big ideas to boost industry, infrastructure and tourism, and we’re also putting the call out for those smaller, local community projects which build a sense of community pride and connectedness, and encourage visitors to stop by town and shop locally.” Minister Neville said.

After extensive consultation to ensure communities influenced the design of the program, Minister Littleproud and Minister Neville said that 60% of the fund – or $42 million – will be dedicated to regional economic projects and programs, and 40% will go to local community projects.

“We’ve always said that a successful recovery is one that’s shaped and supported by the community, and that’s exactly what the Local Economic Recovery program in Victoria is all about.” Minister Neville said.

As part of the $42 million regional economic stream, $34 million will be set aside for regional economic stimulus and resilience grants of up to $5 million, which are open to private businesses, industry groups, councils and Alpine resorts, and other local groups. Under this stream, a further $8 million will be dedicated to regional economic programs, such as initiatives to boost skills, services and industry specialisation.

Under the $26 million local community stream, grants of up to $2 million can be awarded for projects that focus on any line of bushfire recovery, including business, economy and tourism, wellbeing, the environment, or facilities and infrastructure. It is open to Community Recovery Committees, businesses, councils and other local groups.

Regional economic stream funds will be allocated by January 2021, and funds for local community stream projects will be released in rounds from January 2021 onwards, to ensure newly-elected councils can have their say. Over $1.5 million in shovel-ready local community projects have already been announced this month.

Communities ​consulted on the design of the program strongly supported a phased approach to the release of funds to ensure communities have time to get their proposals right, and a ‘contestable’ grants component with a clear and transparent process to ensure needs are balanced and benefits are measured against priorities that communities have set.

In addition to proposals needing to demonstrate alignment with recovery plans that have been developed at the local level, community support will also form part of the assessment process for grant applications.

Jenny Lloyd, Deputy Chair of the Mallacoota and District Recovery Association, said “we want a funding model where community can influence where the dollars in our community are invested and how.”

“Community led recovery is based on identifying gaps and proposing solutions based on local knowledge, preferences and priorities,” she said, adding that “solutions will likely be more enduring and cost effective when decisions involve and are owned by community.”

Graham Symons, President of the Omeo Region Community Recovery Association in East Gippsland, said “we’re working closely with government to make sure this funding can support the local community projects we need in East Gippsland.”

Dominic Sandilands, Chair of the Upper Murray Community Recovery Committee located within Towong Shire, said “there’s a lot we can achieve with these funds at a local-level and we’ve been happy to work closely with government on those decisions – because bushfire-affected communities like ours know what’s needed most.”

Charlie Bird, Chief Executive Officer of Alpine Shire Council, said the announcement was “great news for Alpine Shire and will deliver community priorities in the recovery from the impacts of recent bushfires.”

Applications open for both streams on October 29. Local community grants have multiple tranches, closing in November 2020 and April and August 2021. The regional economic stimulus grants close in December 2020 with grants awarded January 2021.

The Australian and Victorian Governments jointly fund the program. Regional Economic Programs and Local Community Grants will be administered by Bushfire Recovery Victoria and Regional Economic Stimulus and Resilience Grants will be administered by Regional Development Victoria.

To view the guidelines and application process, visit the Local Economic Recovery Page at
www.vic.gov.au/local-economic-recovery-program-bushfire-affected-communities​

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