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Growers Information for those affected by bushfires

Information for those affected by bushfires

The below resources are intended to help growers and others in bushfire-affected areas access key information and assistance at this incredibly difficult time. We’ll be updating this page with further links as they become available, particularly to practical recovery information.

Page last updated 10:05am, 28 January 2020

Scroll down to find the information you need, or skip straight to what you want:

Please note: the new National Bushfire Recovery Agency has also recently released this bushfire asssitance contact and information fact sheet.

Bushfire updates and alerts

Many of these websites also contain links to bushfire preparedness information

 

Bushfire impact map

To help with recovery and response efforts, the Australian Bushfire Rapid Response map shows the location of a range of tree crops overlayed with current bushfire areas and burnt areas dating back to mid-2019 fires. The map comes out of a Rural R&D for Profit project being delivered by Hort Innovation and a range of partners, with more information on its background and use here.

 

Practical bushfire recovery information

The below information may be helpful in managing your agricultural land following a bushfire. We’ll be adding to this as more resources are identified.

General horticulture/agriculture recovery

Industry-specific resources

 

Bushfire recovery – practical support

More resources will be added to this section as they’re identified.

  • BlazeAid – a volunteer organisation that assists those in need in rebuilding fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed after natural disasters.

  • Emergency water provisions may be available to some landholders where there is a significant impact on animal welfare or other agricultural activities. In New South Wales, you can contact the NSW DPI Agricultural and Animal Services Hotline on 1800 814 647. In Victoria, you can apply for the replacement of essential water that has been used during bushfire fighting operations, with more information in the 'Essential water replacement after bushfire' section of this website: www.ffm.vic.gov.au/recovery-after-an-emergency/public-land-recovery

  • The Department of Agriculture has this website listing bushfire support and information for agriculture producers, broken down by state and territory. It includes practical support resources, particularly for those who have livestock.


Financial support


Australian Government assistance

  • Disaster payments. You may be eligible to access a Disaster Recovery Allowance from the Australian Government if the bushfires have directly affected your income, or a Disaster Recovery Payment if you have been injured or your home has been lost or damaged. Find more information at humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires or call the Department of Human Services on 180 22 66 (8am - 8pm on weekdays and 8am - 5pm on weekends).

  • Primary producer grants and rebates. On Tuesday 14 January, the government announced the availability of grants for primary producers affected by the bushfires. Funding of up to $75,000 may be available depending on your circumstances, and can be used for a range of clean-up, repair and restoration activities. This follows the establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Fund on Monday 6 January. More information is available via the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, and via www.business.gov.au/SearchResult?query=bushfireassistance&type=1 and www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires. You can also call the below numbers to learn more on the Primary Industries Grants Program:
    • New South Wales: 1800 678 593
    • Queensland: 1800 623 946
    • South Australia: 1800 931 314 
    • Victoria: 1800 260 425

  • Other support. Visit agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought to learn about other relevant rural assistance schemes, including the Farm Household Allowance and drought services. 


State-specific financial support

National Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements

Depending on where you live, you may be able to access financial assistance under joint Australian, state and territory government Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. This might take the form of:

  • Personal hardship assistance
  • Disaster assistance loans for primary producers, of up to $500,000
  • Freight subsidies for primary producers
  • Other forms of support.

Visit the DisasterAssist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au to see what assistance may be in place in your area. This assistance is delivered through the state and territory agencies outlined above.


Assistance from your bank

Many banks have hardship assistance measures that may be available if you have been affected by the bushfires. These measures might include payment deferrals and the waiving of fees and penalties. Specific emergency assistance measures may also be in place. The Australian Banking Association has a list of financial hardship phone numbers and website pages from a range of banks: www.ausbanking.org.au/policy/customers/financial-hardship/.


Tax-related assistance

The Australian Taxation Office has released information and support measures for those affected by bushfires, which can include deferarrals for lodgements and payments. More information is available at www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/Bushfires-2019-20.


Bill-related assistance

Some service providers - such as many electricity retailers - are offering payment extensions and bill freezes in areas affected by the bushfires. Contact your relevant provider for information on what support may be available.


Financial counselling

The government’s Rural Financial Counselling Service program is a free, confidential service that’s available to farmers that are experiencing or are at risk of financial hardship. You can learn more at www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/rural-financial-counselling-service or call 1800 686 175 to be referred to your nearest office.

A rural financial counsellor can help you work through and understand your current financial situation, including the implications of the current situation, and connect you with relevant professional services and assistance schemes. They can also help you apply directly for the Farm Household Allowance.


Mental health resources

If you are thinking about suicide, for 24/7 support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If your life is in danger, call 000.

  • The FarmHub website has details, links and phone numbers for a range of mental health services, including those specific to rural areas, at farmhub.org.au/mental-health. FarmHub is an Australian Government initiative run through the National Farmers’ Federation.

  • The Bushfire Recovery Access Program, run through the Department of Human Services, can provide access to free counselling and information and access to related services, including a telehealth initiative. More information is available at www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/bushfire-recovery-access-program, with further details to be added to the Human Services page throughout January.

  • For families with young children, Birdie’s Tree is an online resource with information, activities and stories to work through the experience of natural disasters, and includes specific information on fires. Available at www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/natural-disaster-recovery, it has been produced by Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.


Insurance and legal services


Insurance

If you have insurance, contact your insurer for advice on the actions you should take as soon as possible after the fire. The Insurance Council of Australia can also provide advice on lodging an insurance claim following a natural disaster – see www.disasters.org.au or call 1800 734 621 (available 24/7).


Legal resources

Many legal services are offering free legal advice if you have been affected by the bushfires. These services can help you with insurance claims and other legal problems that may arise from the situation. You can contact the below legal resources in your state:

 

Other services

  • Replacement of identity documents. The Australian Passport Office advises that if your passport has been lost or damaged in the bushfires, you may be eligible for a free replacement and can call 131 232 for more information. There is also assistance for replacing important identity documents such as licenses through the various state agencies. For example, those in New South Wales can see the 'Vehicle registrations, licences, permits and number plates' section of this Service NSW assistance page, and there are also Mobile Service Centres visiting fire-affected communities helping people replace lost and damaged documentation.

  • Information for employers and employees. The Fair Work Ombudsman has brought together this information for workplaces and employees to learn more about rights and entitlements during times of natural disasters, including links to support for small businesses.

 

Documenting the impact

Understanding the magnitude of loss and impact caused to horticulture regions and industries by the bushfires will be helpful when it comes to guiding any horticultural response or allocation of resources by the government. Hort Innovation is currently working with industry bodies to develop a picture of the impact, and encourages you to reach out to your peak industry body with information if and when you are able. For example, Growcom has a damage estimation form here. For growers in New South Wales, NSW DPI advises that damage can be reported direct at this link.


Donations

If you would like to, there are no shortage of organisations to donate to during the nation’s current bushfire crisis. As well as donating to the state-funded rural fire services, there are a number of charities and services that are providing food, accommodation and financial support to communities (and their wildlife) affected by the fires. A general list of organisations can be found in this news article from 7News.

There are also a number of fundraising initiatives that have been set up for specific horticulture industries and affected growers, for example the Banana Growers’ Bushfire Appeal Go Fund Me initiative. We encourage you to reach out to your peak industry body to learn about industry-established fundraisers.

 

Have we missed something?

If you’d like to see something included on this page that you think will be of use to fire-affected growers, please reach out to communications@horticulture.com.au with the details. Please note that due to the sheer number of donation options available at this time (which is truly amazing to see), we are unable to publicise all. Instead, as per the information above, in addition to considering the state/local fire service funds and large-scale charity options, we recommend reaching out to your industry body for information on any industry-specific fundraising efforts.