Less than one per cent of $45 million Seroja relief funding program paid to Mid West victims

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
A house in Northampton which was hit hard by cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconA house in Northampton which was hit hard by cyclone Seroja. Credit: Geraldton Guardian / Sam Jones/Sam Jones

Less than one per cent of funding available through a joint State-Commonwealth grant program has been awarded to Mid West residents affected by cyclone Seroja more than 10 months on from the disaster.

The State and Federal governments announced in July residents and businesses hit hard by the April 11 cyclone would have access to a record-breaking $104.5 million disaster recovery package.

The package included a $45 million Recovery and Resilience grant program for insured residents, with grants of up to $20,000 available for homeowners across 16 local government areas.

Figures presented to Parliament on Tuesday revealed 270 grant applications had been received through the program, but just two had been approved and paid as of January 31.

This accounts for just $33,109.42 of the total $45 million available, with funds distributed to applicants within the City of Greater Geraldton and the Shire of Mingenew.

The disaster recovery package also includes a $16.97 million Small Business Recovery grant program, of which just 14 of 37 applications have been approved.

The $1.96 million Cultural and Heritage Asset Clean-Up and Repair grant program has received 34 applications, but none have been approved.

Most of the 17,600 people who applied for Western Power’s special extended outage payment have been reimbursed, but almost 400 people who made a claim for the $1000 generator assistance program have yet to see their application progress.

The fertiliser shed and farmhand quarters of Jill and Ian Thomas' Mingenew farm where damages from Cyclone Seroja have caused them grief.
Picture: Kelsey Reid
Camera IconThe fertiliser shed and farmhand quarters of Jill and Ian Thomas' Mingenew farm were damaged by cyclone Seroja. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said recovery and resilience grant payments could not be made until an invoice had been paid by the homeowner.

“Once an applicant is assessed as eligible, the timing of the grant payments is dependent on progress of works and is not within Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ control,” he said.

But Opposition emergency services spokesman Martin Aldridge said this did explain why so little of the funding had been distributed to applicants.

“It is clear not enough rubber is hitting the road. The State Government must address the issue of why it is taking so long to provide financial support to these affected communities,” he said.

“Whilst demand on the construction industry is currently delaying some aspects of recovery, it does not explain why just two applications have been approved out of 270 for recovery and resiliency grants.”

Mr Aldridge is now calling for an independent inquiry into cyclone Seroja to help manage recovery efforts for future disasters.

“It has been more than 300 days since cyclone Seroja hit, yet the Government is yet to confirm an independent review, yet to complete their own internal review and is failing to ensure funding to help people rebuild their lives is being distributed in a timely manner,” he said.

“By contrast, in January 2016, immediately following the devastating Waroona-Yarloop bushfire, the State Government announced an independent review which was delivered back to Government on April 29, 2016, — a turnaround time of less than 170 days since the bushfire.

“We are heading into another northern cyclone season and we still don’t know the lessons learned from the previous one.”

Mr Dawson said none of the 270 applications recovery and resilience grant applications have been rejected and applicants are currently in the process of commencing or undertaking building works.

“More than $21 million has been disbursed by relevant recovery agencies to the affected communities and there has been no delay in processing,” he said.

He said the State Government would not be conducting an independent review into cyclone Seroja.

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