Four new initiatives to support the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19 are set to form a major plank in the rebuilding effort in communities across Australia.

The $86 million worth of new targeted grants will support some of Australia’s hardest-hit primary producers. This is about helping communities build back better.

With more than $1.4 billion in recovery and relief already rolling out to bushfire-affected communities for everything from direct hardship payments and support to clear debris, through to wildlife rescue and financial counselling, these new programs will help our forestry industry, and apple and wine growers take the next step on their recovery.

Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the agricultural and forestry sectors form the foundation of our food and fibre security. They are also key to jobs and prosperity in many communities affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.

This new funding adds to the Nationals in Government’s commitment of $448.5 million for projects identified by communities as part of their local economic recovery plans, and the $15 million investment to help forestry industries transport and store the high volume of bushfire-affected trees.

The Government is also working closely with the forestry industry to participate in the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund to boost outcomes for the environment, spur investment and create jobs.

“Our Government understands the importance of primary producers to regional economies and community recovery,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The devastating bushfires earlier this year impacted more than 2 million hectares of Australia’s productive forests and our forestry industries are faced with the prospect of wood shortages in major timber regions.

“This assistance acknowledges that the impact on wine grapes extends beyond the fire scar. In some cases, smoke taint from the bushfires has led to a loss of the harvest for the 2020 vintage, estimated to be around 60,000 tonnes lost.

“Our apple producers have suffered significant impacts with Apple and Pear Australia Limited estimating that 170.5 hectares of apple orchards needing to be replaced. To put this into perspective, each hectare can cost around $360,000 to replace, and take up to five years to produce income again.

“As we work to support individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, we haven’t forgotten about communities and industries affected by the bushfires. Today’s announcement will bring some much needed support to some specific industries.”

As our communities battle to overcome the effects of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19, it’s initiatives like these that will also help accelerate economic recovery and ultimately deliver more jobs to the regions.