Bushfire mitigation money left unspent as summer approaches

A war of words has erupted over funding for natural disaster mitigation strategies, after Labor accused the government of being "negligent" for leaving money unspent, and the minister accusing his counterpart of ignoring consultation.

Late last year the government set up the $4 billion emergency response fund, of which $200 million could be drawn upon annually to both respond to and mitigate natural disasters, including fires, floods and other events.

Of the $200 million, $50 million is earmarked specifically for mitigation measures, but the funding wasn't spent last financial year, and so far this financial year no decisions have been made on where the money may go.

The funding is managed by Emergency Management Australia, a division of Home Affairs, which has previously said last year's funding allocation wasn't spent due to other funding announced to respond to the Summer's terrible bushfires across the country.

As bushfire season starts across many Australian states, Labor's spokesman on disaster and emergency management Murray Watt said the chance had been lost to act on mitigation measures over the winter.

"With bushfire season now underway, and floods and cyclones predicted from La Nina weather conditions, the government's failure is putting Australians at risk," Mr Watt said.

Mr Watt said the government was sitting on a "war chest" that could prevent future disasters, but Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud has hit back.

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He said Emergency Management Australia would be providing the government with advice on the use of the fund this year in the near future, and the funds would be directed towards initiatives that will improve resilience or reduce risk.

"I am not interested in playing politics with our natural disaster arrangements, which is why I wrote to the shadow spokesperson to consult with him on the guidelines for the ERF, though to date he has failed to respond," Mr Littleproud said.

"I am confident that EMA will develop a meaningful program that meets the needs of local communities and helps to build long term resilience."

Mr Littleproud said the government was already spending $2 billion on recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires and co-investing $261 million over five years with states and territories to reduce bushfire risk and respond to natural disasters.

Australian states are preparing for bushfires but the federal opposition says the government has left money unspent. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Australian states are preparing for bushfires but the federal opposition says the government has left money unspent. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

This story Bushfire mitigation money left unspent as summer approaches first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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