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The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed a $26 million Federal Government boost to help the community better handle natural disasters, including bushfires.

Mr Chester said the funding would be invested in aerial firefighting capabilities, a new national fire rating program and a community alert system.

“As the hot summer weather takes hold, there are regular warnings about the fire danger. The fire season was declared earlier than normal in Wellington and East Gippsland and there’ve already been a number of blazes across Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.

“This Federal Government funding will assist people facing natural disasters, including bushfires and floods, and help reduce the impact they have on people’s lives, our communities and the economy.

“We are also providing money to the states and territories for a range of national emergency management projects and natural disaster resilience initiatives.”

The $26 million funding package includes:

• $11 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to provide more large specialist firefighting air tankers, bringing the government’s contribution to $25.8 million this financial year;

• $2 million to support the national Emergency Alert SMS system;

• $5.85 million to implement a new National Fire Danger Rating System to help fire authorities communicate bushfire risk to the community by drawing on data such as diverse vegetation types, national fuel load, weather conditions, and the latest developments in fire behaviour science;

• $5 million to establish the Prepared Communities Fund to support high-priority initiatives that improve community preparedness and resilience, such as bushfire shelters in high risk areas;

• $1.5 million to expand a national Public Safety Mobile Broadband trial and establish a national project office to implement this technology; and

• $750,000 to review new and emerging telephone-based emergency warning technologies which will support a new emergency alert warning system.

Mr Chester said the Federal Government had invested more than $130 million since 2013 in initiatives to prepare for natural disasters.

“We can’t prevent natural emergencies, but we can be prepared and ensure we can respond in the most effective way,” Mr Chester said.

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