Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan today announced Defence assistance to the recovery efforts in NSW following the October bushfires.
On Friday the NSW Government accepted an offer from Defence to assist in the initial community recovery.
The key Defence task will be to assess the immediate bushfire area and remove structural and environmental hazards under OPERATION NSW BUSHFIRE ASSIST.
Senator Johnston said Defence was preparing an Army Engineer Remediation Force, expected to include up to 80 personnel equipped with dump trucks, bulldozers and front end loaders and chain saw teams, to help assess and ‘make safe’ the houses and buildings that have been damaged or destroyed.
“This work is expected to commence on Saturday in the Springwood area which the NSW Government has identified as having the greatest need.”
“Defence will continue to work with the Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Coordinator, Mr Phil Koperberg, to ensure that our support best complements the activities of the NSW Government agencies, local communities and commercial operators,” he said.
“Defence continues to support the Rural Fire Service through the provision of meals and accommodation at several of its bases.”
Mr Keenan said the Australian Government always stood ready to assist the States and Territories in times of disaster.
“While our worst fears in the last two weeks weren’t realised, the fires have been devastating for the Blue Mountains community,” Mr Keenan said.
“The clean-up and recovery task is significant, and the Australian Government is well placed to assist at this time.”
During October, bushfires destroyed 208 homes and damaged 122 across NSW.
The Defence assistance will be provided under the auspice of the Australian Government Disaster Response Plan (COMDISPLAN). The Plan is currently activated and has already provided support to NSW in response to the Bushfires.
“The deployment of Defence resources is in addition to other Commonwealth assistance to NSW in relation to the fires, including the provision of one-off recovery assistance payments to those worst affected by the fires and income support to eligible people,” Mr Keenan said.
Media Note: Still imagery of OPERATION NSW BUSHFIRE ASSIST can be found at www.images.defence.gov.au
Rebecca Horton 0427 449 120 (Minister Johnston’s office)
Hannah Weir 0417 862 688 (Minister Keenan’s office)