Politicians continue debate over fire clean-up

The fire clean up will continue into next month.

NSW Labor has slammed John Barilaro’s bushfire recovery effort as a “failure” and demanded the Deputy Premier urgently accelerate the clean-up effort so bushfire survivors can rebuild their lives and restore their communities.

Responding to NSW Labor, Mr Barilaro said the opposition is spreading false statements about the unprecedented bushfire clean-up program in an attempt to stir up anxiety in bushfire-affected communities.

The clean-up deadline for bushfire affected properties in NSW was originally set for June 30, but was recently pushed back by one month, July 31 being the new deadline.

“John Barilaro is all hat and no cattle. He’s failed to deliver on his promises in bushfire affected communities. Why did it take months for clean-up teams to hit the ground? Why are there still people living in tents at the showground?” asked Labor’s Deputy Leader Yasmin Catley.

Labor said that as recently as June 16 Mr Barilaro boasted in correspondence to the Opposition about the rate of progress, with no mention of his plan to abandon the deadline.

“John Barilaro has had ample opportunity to admit his clean-up program is a failure. It’s time to stop spinning and start working,” Ms Catley said.

“These communities can’t rebuild or move past the heartache and loss of the bushfire disaster until these destroyed home sites are cleaned up. Bushfire survivors’ lives are basically on hiatus until John Barilaro comes good on his promise to clean up these burned out blocks,” she added.

During Senate questioning early last week, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested the delay is in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In all of the circumstances, including the impact of Covid-19, I would have thought that the Labor Party would understand that we are dealing with a particular circumstance that is more challenging than we envisaged back in January,” he said.

Mr Barilaro accused Labor of trying to derail the recovery effort.

“When Laing O’Rourke was appointed as the contractor to oversee the clean-up back in late January, despite fires still active across NSW, we set out to clear an estimated 2,800 properties and we have currently cleared more than 2,700,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We are now going even further by assisting an additional 900 impacted property owners who are eligible for the clean-up program.

“The NSW Government, in partnership with Laing O’Rourke, has always estimated that the majority of properties would be cleared by 30 June, and this has already been achieved.

“Someone’s property is going to be cleared first, someone else’s property is going to be cleared last and this is the reality of a comprehensive and thorough clean-up program.

“If Labor cared about these communities who lost everything in the horrific bushfires, they would get out of Macquarie street, visit these towns, learn first-hand what these families have gone through and get their facts straight.

“While we will have the vast majority of properties cleared by the end of June, our support in the recovery effort has no end date, despite what Labor may spin.

“I urge anyone who needs assistance with accommodation to call Service NSW on 13 77 88.”