Bushfire recovery works carry on boosted by grants

Bushfire recovery works carry on boosted by grants

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VOLUNTEERS: BlazeAid volunteers, Ross Wright, Melbourne, and Ian Trezise, Mornington Peninsula, fencing as part of the bushfire recovery process.

VOLUNTEERS: BlazeAid volunteers, Ross Wright, Melbourne, and Ian Trezise, Mornington Peninsula, fencing as part of the bushfire recovery process.

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The recovery from the 2019/20 bushfires continues as grants for fencing and reseeding works continue to flow.

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Farmers affected by the 2019/20 fires have access to funds for fencing and reseeding pastures in the wake of recent announcements by BlazeAid and the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) and Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF).

GERF and the VFF have extended the closing date for their bushfire recovery fencing grants program.

More than 100 farmers have already received assistance under the program, which will now be open until Monday 8 June, unless the fund is fully subscribed prior.

As well as erecting 1000s of kilometres of fencing, BlazeAid has added a grants program to aid in pasture recovery.

BlazeAid co-founder Kevin Butler, said the bushfire recovery work had been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the well-known fencing program, BlazeAid also had funding of $185,000 for resowing pastures lost in the fires.

The Grasseeds Restablishment After Fires Funding Initiative (GRAFFI) utilised Victorian Bushfire Appeal money allocated to Victorian farmers registered at Corryong, Buchan, Bruthen and Wulgulmerang.

Mr Butler said round two of the GRAFFI grants would open on June 1 and close on June 3.

He said the recipient farmers had 12 months to plant the seed so they could plant in either the spring or the autumn.

The grants varied in size from $880 to $25,000 (average about $5000) and seed was only available from local outlets.

Mr Butler said there were 15 criteria that included farmers who were "deserving and appreciative", that were community involved, had good fire preparation and were involved in community recovery.

Other criteria included farmers who had a history of perennial grass seeding before the fires and those that used stock/paddock rotational grazing practices to ensure the new pastures persisted.

Mr Butler said BlazeAid had decided after consultation, to retain its camps.

The message was pretty clear that people wanted BlazeAid to stay, and the camps from Kangaroo Island to northern NSW, had remained operational.

He said there would be 30 base camps operational from next week.

He said that included camps at Cann River, opening June 3 and Corryong on June 10.

So far for the 2019/20 fire season BlazeAid had erected 2500 kilometres of fencing nationally and 400km in Victoria (mostly due to the rugged terrain.

He said the major impact of the coronavirus restrictions was the unavailability of the army of grey nomads that normally made up the majority of BlazeAid volunteers.

He said it was decided that only those volunteers who could stay 88 days were accepted.

He said those not able to commit were sent home and now the majority of volunteers were back packers unable to return to the overseas homes.

"We do want more of our regular BlazeAid volunteers to come back. We need their expertise," he said.

He said BlazeAid was regarded as an essential service and was able to continue to function.

"We instigated some strict requirements about hygiene, food delivery and social distancing."

He said that with the impact of coronavirus restrictions slowing the process, work on damage from 2019/20 could continue for three or four months.

"Donations are strong which is good because we need them. That's what supplies the materials, the wire, the seed and feed our vounteers.

Gippsland fencing grants extended

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund president John Mitchell said the time extension of grant applications would give more farmers impacted by the summer's bushfires the opportunity to apply.

"We want to ensure as many East Gippsland farmers as possible have the opportunity to apply.We're also providing more time for the successful applicants to get the work done, with grants now not needing to be fully spent until 31 August," Mr Mitchell said.

The VFF will continue to administer the $1.4 million fund through an online grants applications process. VFF President David Jochinke said the organisation was committed to ensuring ongoing support for farmers through the partnership.

"The recovery process for farmers involved in Victoria's bushfire crisis will continue long after the flames were extinguished. It's important that partnerships such as this exist to help farmers get back on their feet," he said.

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