Shadow Minister for Emergency Management, Senator Perin Davey, has today welcomed news the Albanese Government’s $1.8 billion prepayment to states from next year’s disaster recovery budget, but said the funds must be fast tracked directly to local councils, which currently carry the brunt of repair costs.
“The prepayment of $1.8 billion to state governments indicates a move in the right direction. But the issue is that these funds need to go directly to the local councils who are currently paying for the repairs and shouldering the burden of debt while they wait for State reimbursement,” Senator Davey said.
“I’ve spent the last week in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales with the Senate Select Committee on Australia’s Disaster Response and every Council raised the issue of the delay between incurring the cost of repairs and the state releasing the funds.
“When most people think of disaster recovery, they think of immediate repair works to infrastructure and it is the Councils who get the calls and bear the responsibility.
“So if the State is now getting the money upfront to be acquitted later, that process must also apply to local governments who are responsible for most of the works.
The Shadow Minister is calling for a revised funding process that allows local councils to get Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangement money for repairs upfront with appropriate audit and acquittal processes.
“The Albanese Government should learn from recent experiences and work with the states to take a more efficient approach to disaster recovery funding.
“A better system would be to provide cash upfront to local councils, and have a retrospective audit and approval process, thereby easing the financial stress on these councils during crucial times.
“We know delays add to the trauma of local communities, add costs and hamper actual disaster recovery efforts on the ground.
“The funds need to be directed straight to where they are needed – the local councils responsible for disaster recovery and resilience,” Senator Davey said.