ADELAIDE Hills farmers and business owners grappling with the clean-up following the Cudlee Creek fire have expressed concerns about difficulties accessing some of the available government assistance.
Earlier this week, Disaster Recovery Minister David Littleproud, alongside federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and state Member for Kavel Dan Cregan, toured the fire ground, meeting with some of those affected.
Ms Sharkie said a common issue she heard from primary producers and small businesses throughout the day was the "unintended consequences of federal support and what that looks like when it gets transferred over to the state" to distribute.
A rebate of up to $15,000 is available for primary producers to "reimburse reinstatement and clean-up costs" from the fire, but Ms Sharkie said some producers were being held up by restrictive criteria on this funding, which limits its applications, and became further complicated when insurance was involved.
"People need to be able to start the recovery - they can't move forward until they start the clean-up," she said.
Last week, the federal government also announced $75,000 grants to assist primary producers with the costs of recovery and getting back to business, with the guidelines released yesterday morning.
Ms Sharkie said these guidelines needed to be applied as flexibly as possible to allow primary producers to strengthen their businesses and recover.
She also had concerns about excessive red tape for those accessing support.
"The process should be as simple, uniformed and streamlined as possible," she said. "If you've been busy just trying to make sure the stock have food, a lot of people find the prospect of endless pages of paperwork (daunting)."
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With the Adelaide Hills area in the "second phase of recovery", Mr Littleproud said his government would be working with the state and local governments to make sure clean-up costs were shared and "more money goes to households".
He said it was important "no one falls through the cracks".
"We'll be holding to account our own selves, to make sure our payments get out but also saying to states we expect to see transparency in money getting out," he said. "Speed is important to getting to the rebuilding of these communities and these lives."
A representative from the SA government said the guidelines for all grants were "nationally consistent" and set by the Commonwealth.
"PIRSA will be administering the grants and a streamlined process has been established to ensure the grants are turned around quickly," they said.
"To assist applicants we are providing support in the Parndana and Lobethal Recovery Centres and applications can be made at our regional offices. A dedicated Bushfire Recovery Hotline has also been set up to assist with enquires."
Mount Torrens' dairyfarmer Rick Gladigau, who met with the MPs this week, had about 50 per cent of his Mount Torrens farm affected by the fire, and while he did not lose any sheds, there was still a lot of clean-up involved.
He said the support for primary producers by the federal government was appreciated but the money needed to be easy to access.
"I heard of one farmer who went to a recovery centre, to see if he could get the money to tidy up his farm, and they basically said 'don't waste your breath'," he said.
Mr Gladigau was concerned tax invoices would be required to access $15,000 in clean-up grants, which would not cover his own labour.
"That's just crazy, that I have to employ someone to tidy my farm up," he said.
He said funding, such as the $75,000 grants, needed to be consistent across states but also flexible so farmers could apply it to their own systems.
"Farmers wanted to build resilience to cope with the next emergency, and not rely on others," he said.
The fire burned hay and dry feed on his property.
"It's thrown my summer drought strategy in the bin," he said.
"We are still milking.
"I had some hay donated, and that's really appreciated, as I had to shift the stock off the block I lease, because it's toasted, from one end to the other."
- Details: Bushfire Recovery Hotline 1800 255 556 or visit pir.sa.gov.au/emergency_management/bushfires/2019_bushfire_information
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