Landholders urged to assess their eligibility for grants following fire devastation

RECOVERY: Greg Mouat is an orchardist from Batlow in southern NSW.
RECOVERY: Greg Mouat is an orchardist from Batlow in southern NSW.

MONTHS after fires wreaked havoc through rural properties and orchards in southern NSW landholders are now piecing together how a $140 million industry recovery package will help.

Around Batlow, Tumut, Adelong and Tumbarumba primary producers had their livelihoods damaged, orchards wiped out, fences decimated and breeding herds destroyed.

This region was hit hard during the fires which occurred during the Christmas and New Year period creating both an emotional and economic toll.

Greg Mouat of Mouat's Farm at Batlow has been assessing the state government's $140 million recovery package and is urging others to do the same.

Mr Mouat is also a director of the Batlow Fruit Company, which employs around 50 people in the town of 1200.

For him getting the fruit industry back on its feet is paramount. And he explained that replanting orchards was a timely and costly process.

REFLECTION: Alan Brown is the Rural Fire Service group captain for east of Wagga and has witnessed the devastation first hand.

REFLECTION: Alan Brown is the Rural Fire Service group captain for east of Wagga and has witnessed the devastation first hand.

He estimated that the package would cover around 50 per cent of replanting. In that case the grower would then have to find the funds for the balance of reestablishing lost trees.

Once orchards were replanted the length of time until trees reached full production was around five years.

"I'm not exactly sure what the horticultural slice (of this package) will be but we are encouraged to apply for it by the middle of June," he said.

The funds are understood to come with a limit of $120,000 per hectare.

Alan Brown is the Rural Fire Service group captain for east of Wagga and has witnessed the devastation first hand.

Mr Brown is also the NSW Farmers Association, Wagga district branch chairman. He stressed that the recovery needed to be accessible.

WELCOME SUPPORT: NSW Farmers Association president James Jackson.

WELCOME SUPPORT: NSW Farmers Association president James Jackson.

And while he was involved in helping to fight the fires he has also seen the flow-on affects including fodder losses, destroyed fencing and crushing livestock deaths.

"Any support for the people who have lost substantial property in the fires is great," he said.

"We have seen catastrophic losses with fencing and livestock (that) are very difficult to recover from," he said.

Mr Brown said in addition government assistance he was also of the view that people should pitch in and help each other as much as possible.

And although fire damage is still at the forefront of people's hearts and minds Mr Brown conceded the logistical concerns surrounding coronavirus had exacerbated what was already a challenging time.

NSW Farmers president James Jackson said the recovery package was the sort of assistance the lobby group had been asking for.

"Now is also the prime time to invest in food and fibre value add processing and regional food precincts. These will create opportunities for farm diversification, create regional jobs and further enhance food security in NSW and I would hope these grants go some way in achieving that," he said.

Eligible projects include replacing permanent plantings and irrigation equipment, re-establishing pastures and herd rebuilding.