$86 million of new grants for bushfire-hit industries

Chief winemaker of Clonakilla Wines in Murrumbateman Tim Kirk has scrapped his 2020 harvest due to the smoke taint. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Chief winemaker of Clonakilla Wines in Murrumbateman Tim Kirk has scrapped his 2020 harvest due to the smoke taint. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Wine producers whose 2020 harvest was tainted by smoke will be able to apply for grants of up to $10,000, as part of an $86 million scheme to help aid recovery in some of the industries worst-hit by the Black Summer bushfires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new targeted grants scheme would help forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers overcome the triple whammy of drought, bushfires and now coronavirus.

"With more than $1.4 billion in recovery and relief already rolling out to bushfire-affected communities for everything from direct hardship payments and support to clear debris, through to wildlife rescue and financial counselling, these new programs will help our forestry industry, and apple and wine growers take the next step on their recovery," Mr Morrison said.

It includes a $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund to help timber mills navigate future wood supply shortages through "innovation and product diversification".

Another $10 million would go to setting up storage facilities for fire-affected logs and processed timber products.

The fires affected around two million hectares of Australia's productive forests, including nearly 130,000 hectares of plantation forests.

It is estimated these forests will take at least 30 years to regrow.

However logging has become even more controversial since the blazes, after it was linked to hotter and more intense bushfires. There are also concerns for future koala populations if the industry increases its logging intensity to keep up with the demand after the bushfire crisis.

Wine producers in regions not currently eligible for the $75,000 primary producer grants could apply for a $10,000 grant - matched by a co-contribution - from a $5 million funding pool. Currently, only producers in declared disaster areas can receive assistance.

Agriculture minister David Littleproud said the wine grants in particular were an acknowledgement the impact of the fires extended well beyond the fire scar.

While up to 800 hectares of vineyards were destroyed in the fires, the smoke had far-reaching consequences.

"In some cases, smoke taint from the bushfires has led to a loss of the harvest for the 2020 vintage, estimated to be around 60,000 tonnes lost," Mr Littleproud said.

Canberra region producers Clonakilla, Mount Majura, Shaw Wines and Poachers Pantry have scrapped their 2020 vintages altogether due to the smoke. Chief winemaker at Clonakilla Tim Kirk estimated his losses alone will be more than $1 million.

Apple growers affected by the fires can also apply for grants of $120,000 per hectare, as part of a $31 million funding pool.

It has been estimated around 20 per cent of apple trees and supporting farm infrastructure were destroyed or damaged in the fires.

"Our apple producers have suffered significant impacts with Apple and Pear Australia Limited estimating that 170.5 hectares of apple orchards needing to be replaced," Mr Littleproud said.

"To put this into perspective, each hectare can cost around $360,000 to replace, and take up to five years to produce income again."

This story $86 million of new grants for bushfire-hit industries first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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