Federal government announces $50 million for wildlife and habitat recovery after fires

Koala care: Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton feeds a koala named Lismore Rose as Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Cowper MP Pat Conaghan look on. Photo: Scott Castle
Koala care: Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton feeds a koala named Lismore Rose as Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Cowper MP Pat Conaghan look on. Photo: Scott Castle

An initial $50 million federal government investment will go to protect wildlife and restore habitat in response to the bushfire crisis.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Environment Minister Sussan Ley made the funding announcement at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital today, flanked by Cowper MP Pat Conaghan and Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box.

Mr Frydenberg said the $50 million was an initial contribution to protect our wildlife and restore habitat.

"This has been an ecological disaster - a disaster that is still unfolding," he said about the fires.

Mr Frydenberg some eight million hectares had been burnt and our native flora and fauna had been very badly damaged.

The Treasurer, speaking at the koala hospital, said just a few kilometres from here, the fires had been burning.

"Homes have been lost, lives have been lost," he said about the bushfires which have gripped Australia.

"This has been a national tragedy to see these fires burning across many states and indeed they are still burning."

Mr Frydenberg also spoke more broadly about the federal government's focus on response and recovery.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley outlined the breakdown of the $50 million environmental investment.

She said $25 million would be made available for wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos which were "standing ready to do what they do best - breed insurance populations and get out there in the field and help" - and natural resource management bodies.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg addresses the press conference flanked by Cowper MP Pat Conaghan, Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box. Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams is in the background.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg addresses the press conference flanked by Cowper MP Pat Conaghan, Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box. Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams is in the background.

The government says it will coordinate with organisations across Australia to ensure the money goes where it is needed and complemented the wave of generous private donations.

Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box will manage the other $25 million.

Dr Box will chair a panel of experts to advise on further immediate actions and in developing a long-term wildlife protection and habitat restoration plan.

Ms Ley said people would see money coming out the door in days, right where it was needed and ongoing conversations would help the federal government have the best possible response.

The expert panel will start its work on Wednesday (January 15).

Dr Box said collaboration was key and the expert panel would have a few roles.

"We will be looking at trying to assess the impacts of these fires on our threatened species, on our wildlife, on our plants and animals. Mapping to try to understand where the fires have been and which species may have been in their path has already begun," she said.

"We will be looking at those maps and looking at what further information we need to assess those impacts.

"We will be trying to prioritise species, the places where we most need to focus our efforts, then look at the type of actions that need to be done."

Cowper MP Pat Conaghan said it was so important for the federal government to recognise the damage to our environment and wildlife, and have a long-term plan for its recovery.

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