A new report released on Tuesday, 23 February, has found less than half of the Federal Government’s bushfire recovery funding has been delivered, which is at odds with information released by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
The report, titled Smokescreen: The rhetoric and reality of federal bushfire recovery funding, says more than one year on from the Black Summer bushfires, only 48 per cent of the funding promised has made it into the hands of bushfire survivors.
The GetUp! lobby group commissioned independent think tank Per Capita to produce the report that it says “uncovers the gap between what was promised and what was delivered in federal bushfire recovery spending since the Black Summer bushfires”.
“We estimate less than half of the $2.7 billion in promised funding was delivered by the end of 2020,” says report author Matt Lloyd-Cape. “This is around half a billion less than relevant ministers claimed had been spent by that time.”
However, these figures are not consistent with those on the National Bushfire Recovery Agency’s website that shows $1.9 billion has been allocated.
While Mr Lloyd-Cape was unable to break down the specific areas where funding has been allocated – such as to the ACT or NSW South Coast – he said there has been little or no transparency of where federal funds are going, and there are multiple accounts of Federal Government ministers misrepresenting the scale of the funding and the speed of delivery.
Mr Lloyd-Cape also took aim at the National Bushfire Recovery Agency funds, saying they were a theoretical description of a number of different pots of money, some new and some redirected from other government programs.
“So far, NSW has received 77 per cent of all Local Economic Recovery funds and has spent nearly all of that in Liberal-National Party seats, without even requiring application forms for projects,” he said.
“We spent around three months tracking down data for this project, when really the government should be ensuring the general public, and more importantly bushfire survivors, know exactly what is happening with the funds allocated to the recovery.”
The areas hit hardest by the 2019-2020 bushfires were the NSW South Coast and Snowy Mountains, which are mostly in government-held seats.
NSW Member for Monaro John Barilaro was also accused of pork-barrelling funds after fronting a parliamentary inquiry regarding why three areas in non-Coalition electorates didn’t receive any funding through the Government’s bushfire grant program despite suffering millions of dollars in losses.
Government data identified the Shoalhaven as suffering the worst economic losses from bushfires, totalling $345 million, followed by the Bega Valley, with $218 million. Both received tens of millions in funding.
The Liberal-held area of Goulburn, where the economic impact was $17 million, was estimated to have received more than $10 million in grants.