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Planning for long-term recovery for Victorian farms.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Planning for long-term recovery for Victorian farms

12 February 2009 DAFF09/195BJ

The Rudd Government has committed additional funding to assist with the long-term recovery of agricultural land damaged in the Victorian bushfires.

Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke today announced more than $5 million of uncommitted funding from Caring for our Country to support bushfire recovery projects in Victoria.

In addition, natural resource management groups across Australia now have extra time to lodge investment proposals for 2009-10 under Caring for our Country.

Groups have an extra four weeks - to Friday 3 April 2009 - to lodge proposals, which will assist those in both fire- and flood-affected areas who may have difficulty completing the paperwork.

The Ministers said the urgent priority remained searching for loved ones lost in the fires.

However, in the longer-term the funding would assist communities, including farmers, who will need significant investment and support to rebuild and recover from the fires.

The additional Caring for our Country investment could support a range of environmental and landscape repair work, including:

• planting sterile rye grass in agricultural soils at risk of erosion • fencing around significant vegetation and aquatic sites • erosion control work on stream banks and around wetlands • weed control programs in fire-affected areas • assist with the care and rehabilitation of wildlife and habitat.

There are early reports of lost stock, lost fodder and significant damage to permanent plantings and dairies.

Some timber mills have been lost and 100,000 hectares of native forest for timber production has been destroyed, along with up to 30,000 hectares of plantation forests.

The fires have also impacted on some sites of high conservation value aquatic ecosystems and have burnt a range of forests, including wet and sclerophyll forests.

“These funds will give Catchment Management Authorities, community groups and individuals the opportunity to undertake some of the essential environment rehabilitation works that will be so needed as a result of the devastation these fires have caused across the landscape,” Mr Garrett said.

Mr Burke said many farmers were dealing with losing friends and family and it was too early to fully establish damage to farming properties.

“Eventually, this assistance will be essential to help slowly return these scorched farming properties to functioning businesses,” Mr Burke said.

“People can easily understand the impact of a building being destroyed, but the destruction of future productivity through erosion and weeds after a fire can just as devastating.

“It will take some time to work out what has been damaged and what work needs to be done to improve the soil and re-plant native vegetation, crops or permanent plantings.

“This funding support means we will be ready to act to help farming families get back on their feet sooner.”