Wineries in the Adelaide Hills, apple farmers in Batlow and wood mills devastated by the summer bushfires will be able to use $86 million in new government grants to help them get back on their feet.
The federal government announced three new sector-specific grants programs on Tuesday, to support forestry, vineyards and apple growers impacted by the fires.
Apple growers will share $31 million in grants of $120,000 a hectare, matching a NSW government program.
Apple and Pear Australia estimates the bushfires caused $72 million in damage across the three main apple growing regions – Batlow and Bilpin in NSW and Adelaide Hills in South Australia – and wiped out about a fifth of the nation’s apple trees.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes the money will help growers to decide to replant their orchards.
“It’s not one or two years, it is a decade at least for them to build back,” he said in Eden, on the NSW south coast.
“They were having to make decisions about whether they are going to stay and have another crack and go forward again, or they were going to give up.”
Each hectare can cost $342,000 to regrow.
Batlow, which was the worst hit, is in the Eden-Monaro electorate that faces a by-election on July 4
The opposition welcomed the funding but criticised the timing.
“Finally, Scott Morrison realises bushfire-hit industries have been decimated and need support,” Labor senator Murray Watt said.
“Why did it take a by-election for him to realise (that)?”
Smoke-affected wineries that have had to dump harvests will share a $5 million grant pool, with grape producers required to match grants of up to $10,000 each.
A $40 million fund for forestry recovery projects will help producers deal with expected wood supply shortages by innovating or diversifying their products.
Another $10 million will be used for storage facilities for processed timber products, fire-affected logs and other forestry products.
Mr Morrison and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud saw first-hand how this money could help a timber mill they visited in Eden on Tuesday.
“To be able to get that resource that’s sitting out on the ground out there that’s burnt and do something with it, rather than let it waste away – that’s an investment in this community,” Mr Littleproud said.
“That’ll protect the 70 jobs that are here and the 600 jobs that are around them.”