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Sykes: Bushfire Package a good start but …

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The State Government $138m Bushfire Recovery Package announced today has been cautiously welcomed by Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes.

Dr Sykes said, “The package contains some good initiatives such as:

  • Repairs and upgrade to Whitfield Recreation Reserve;
  • Upgrading community halls such as Cheshunt;
  • Tourism Recovery Package as announced 31/1/07
  • Upgrade of Jamieson – Eildon Road and Mt Buller – Mt Stirling Road;
  • $60,000 to restore high country huts;
  • $30m for SES; and
  • $455,000 for securing fish stocks in streams affected by the fires.

“However, the quantum of money falls short of what is required. The Nationals believe that $250m is required.”

Dr Sykes continued, “$138m plus the $140m for Drought Recovery is less than three days income for the State Government. Many farmers and rural businesses have spent three years income attempting to survive the ‘double whammy’ of fires and drought.

“In addition, some items listed in the recovery package are not directly related to the fires or drought or are existing budget items … eg.

  • $34m for CFA shed upgrades (already in budget);
  • $20,000 for Winton Motor Raceway marketing plan (unrelated to Bushfire/Drought)

“Increased money for weed and pest animal control is welcome but $3m is a pittance when there is over seven million hectares of Crown Land.

“The temporary wild dog and fox bounties will fail unless they are made permanent – any population biologist will tell you that wild dog and fox populations will rapidly rebuild to original numbers if the cull program only last six months.”

Dr Sykes concluded, “I call on the Bracks Government to increase its level of support to Country Victoria, in particular to adopt the following initiatives which we included in The Nationals Submission to the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce:-

  • $20,000 cash grants to affected farmers and businesses;
  • Funding 50% of costs of fence repairs/replacement where Crown Land/private boundary fences have been damaged by fire;
  • Eliminating matching funding component requirements for small grants for community organisations;
  • Decentralisation of Government staff to regional areas; and
  • $200m pa for 10 years to fix country roads and bridges.

Written by Greg Naylor

29 March 2007 at 3:08 pm

Posted in media release

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