Overview and roles
What are the arrangements for access to Natural Disaster Financial Assistance?
Natural Disaster Financial Assistance (NDFA) for local councils in Victoria is provided by the Victorian State Government to assist in the recovery process and alleviate some of the financial burden that may be experienced following a natural disaster, in accordance with Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).
The NDRRA defines eligible natural disasters as ‘any one of, or a combination of, the following natural hazards: bushfire; earthquake; flood; storm; cyclone; storm surge; landslide; tsunami; meteorite strike; or tornado. These arrangements do not apply to disasters where human activity is a significant contributing cause (e.g. poor environmental planning, commercial development, personal intervention (other than arson) or accident.
As part of the normal assessment process, councils are required to submit claims to DTF, which will be provided to the following departments and/or agencies for assessment of actual expenditure associated with:
- VicRoads – counter disaster operations and the repair and reinstatement of essential public assets;
- Department of Health and Human Services – management and co-ordination of emergency relief including Municipal Emergency Coordination Centres (MECCs), relief and recovery centres, and personal and financial counselling i.e. psychosocial support.
What is Natural Disaster Financial Assistance available for?
Specifically, financial support is provided to assist municipal councils with costs associated with:
- certain counter disaster operations, including repairs to assets damaged by counter disaster operations;
- the restoration and emergency protection works to essential public assets damaged as a direct result of a natural disaster – including the repair of roads and bridges, levees, local government offices and storm water infrastructure; and
- some operational activities mainly associated with the establishment of a Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre (MECC), relief or recovery centres.
Roles and responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF), VicRoads, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Local Councils are as follows:
During or in the months following a natural disaster, DTF will:
- liaise with councils to determine whether damage has been sustained to essential public assets or whether Councils anticipate that costs will be incurred in undertaking a counter disaster activity.
- provide general advice regarding the eligibility of costs under the NDFA/NDRRA, if requested by a local council or VicRoads.
- ensure that up to date information and support material is available on the website to support councils during and after an event.
- liaise with the Department of Justice and the Department of Premier and Cabinet to organise a notification to be prepared to the Commonwealth if it is determined that sufficient evidence arises for a natural disaster to be declared as eligible under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).
- liaise with Emergency Management Australia (the Commonwealth) and advise that the State has experienced an eligible natural disaster event under the NDRRA including measures required to be activated under the NDRRA and whether the secondment of neighbouring council staff is eligible for reimbursement, i.e. position descriptions are required for long-term resourcing.
When receiving a claim for reimbursement, DTF:
- performs an initial review of the claim to ensure the form has been completed and supporting information has been provided, before requesting VicRoads to undertake an assessment of the claim. DTF may contact the council where the claim submitted through the Automated Claims Management System is found to be incomplete or information is missing.
- will approve an assessment amount subject to all eligibility requirements, and notify the local council, once the assessment has been completed by VicRoads.
- is the agency with final responsibility for determining the appropriate reimbursement amount, regardless of any indications VicRoads or other agencies may have given during the assessment process.
- will send a letter to local councils once a claim has been approved (or not approved), outlining the total amount of financial assistance that has been approved. Payment of the invoice will then be organised by DTF.
When receiving a request for an advance from local councils, DTF will:
- liaise with VicRoads in order to determine the scale of the impact to a local government area.
- ensure that the Council has developed an itemised estimate of the impacts, including a statement of the degree of confidence in the estimate.
- advise the individual council if their request is successful and the amount of the advance that has been approved.
- assess subsequent claims from Councils for actual expenditure, offset approved claim amounts against any advances previously paid to local councils and advise councils of the current balance of advance payments still available.
- advise local councils once any approved advances has been fully utilised. Any difference between the advance provided and the final total expenditure will either be provided to the council as an additional grant (upon receipt of an invoice, as advised by DTF) or returned by the council.
Early days during or in the months following a natural disaster, Local Councils:
- should first contact their insurance provider to discuss whether assets are covered under their insurance arrangements prior to seeking assistance from DTF under the NDFA/NDRRA.
- should contact NDFA Team/Donna Kennedy on (03) 9651 2327 to advise whether damage has been sustained to essential public assets, or whether the council anticipates that costs will be incurred in undertaking a counter disaster activity.
- should undertake, as a general rule, Counter Disaster Operations and Emergency Protection works within the first 24/48 hours and up to two weeks after an event to ensure essential public assets are protected and to restore essential public services within the affected region. Affected councils should seek approval from DTF, if further time is required.
- notify and engage VicRoads’ regional representatives at the time of the natural disaster as this involvement will assist in substantiating the claim and in discussing eligibility of a particular activity. Local councils unsure of who they should engage with should contact VicRoads Head Office on (03) 9854 2485.
- should contact either NDFA Team on 9651 2327:
- if seeking general advice on whether a damaged asset is considered to be essential and therefore eligible under the NDRRA (noting that all claims must ultimately be assessed for eligibility by VicRoads); and/or
- if they are considering seconding staff from other councils so that DTF can liaise with the Commonwealth to assess whether the secondment costs will be eligible, i.e. position descriptions are required for long-term resourcing
- should set up suitable project management arrangements, such that the scale and scope of required recovery works are well documented and regularly updated, as better information becomes available.
- should provide VicRoads and DTF photographic evidence supporting the condition of assets prior to the disaster occurring as well as after the disaster. If required, local councils should also provide a copy of their asset register or asset maintenance schedule as further evidence of the pre-condition of the damaged asset.
- should familiarise themselves with information and advice from DTF’s web site regarding eligible activities and costs (e.g. staffing costs such as overtime, costs for backfilling staff, debris removal etc) and contact NDFA Team (03 9651 2327) to clarify any issues or concerns.
- should advise DTF and VicRoads if an asset (or component) is re-damaged following a further natural disaster event to seek a determination of whether a revised allowable time period is applicable.
- should undertake repairs to damaged essential public assets within a period less than two years after the end of the financial year in which the relevant natural disaster occurred. Councils should note that any claims for financial assistance must cover only expenditure incurred within this time frame.
- will incur costs up front then seek reimbursement from DTF on a periodic basis (e.g. monthly, or on completion of certain stages of work) based on actual expenditure – not estimates.
- should advise DTF as soon as practically possible if they are unable to repair damaged essential public assets by the end of the allowable time period, noting that further time is granted only under exceptional circumstances by the Commonwealth in accordance with the NDRRA. Failure to prioritise works or to engage appropriately with DTF and VicRoads is not considered to be an exceptional circumstance.
- will provide additional information regarding estimates or progress reporting to DTF as requested.
- should make themselves familiar with the
When making a claim for reimbursement, Local Councils should:
- submit a claim from either the Council’s Municipal Engineer or Chief Executive Officer through the Automated Claims Management System, ensuring :
- that they have provided evidence of impact to their local government area by various sources including local media articles, State Emergency Services and Bureau of Meteorology reports in their claims, regardless of whether an event has been formally notified to the Commonwealth as an eligible natural disaster under the NDRRA;
- that claims are submitted on a regular basis (i.e. monthly or quarterly). Upon receipt of a formal request from DTF, VicRoads carries out an assessment of counter disaster operations undertaken and any damage to essential public assets;
- that separate claims are provided for each natural disaster event; and
- that they only include expenditure incurred within the allowable time period – expenditure should also be based on actual costs rather than as estimates.
- invoice DTF for the approved amount once a claim has been approved and DTF has advised the invoice amount. The invoice for financial assistance should be exclusive of GST.
- apply to the Victorian Grants Commission for the provision of special payments where there is a shortfall between the approved restoration costs and the DTF contribution.
- submit all final claims for reimbursement relating to a particular event by the end of September immediately following the end of the allowable time period.
When experiencing financial hardship following a natural disaster:
- in exceptional circumstances, and where a local council can demonstrate financial hardship, arrangements for payments to be provided in advance to assist councils experiencing financial hardship in commencing or progressing NDRRA/NDFA recovery works can be organised.
- local Councils wishing to seek an advance payment to assist with the repair of essential public assets:
- should send a letter addressed to Donna Kennedy, Department of Treasury and Finance, Level 9, 1 Macarthur Street, Melbourne 3000 for consideration. Advance payment requests should only include costs that are expected to be incurred, and should therefore not include any contingency costs.
- Should provide a detailed current estimate of recovery works, including the degree of confidence in such an estimate.
- Provide formal claims for actual expenditure with supporting invoices upon completion of the work, or completion of a stage of the work to justify actual costs against the advance paid.
- any difference between the advance provided and the final expenditure will either be provided to the council as an additional grant or returned by the council.
After a natural disaster, VicRoads:
- will liaise with local councils on request to discuss eligibility of activities including inspection of damaged assets.
- will utilise each council’s initial itemised estimate of the impacts as a way of assessing the scale and severity of an eligible event. This will help inform the level of involvement required throughout the recovery process, to aid in the completion of the assessment of claims when needed.
- upon receipt of a formal request from DTF, VicRoads will undertake an assessment of actual expenditure provided in a claim by a local council including any damage to local essential public assets, giving consideration to the following:
- initial damage to roads, bridges and other physical assets;
- current standards and eligibility criteria;
- local media, State Emergency Service and Bureau of Meteorology reports;
- evidence of the work undertaken which includes photographs of before and after the event or, where deemed necessary, may also include site visits to inspect completed works;
- evidence of the project management approach that was in place, to manage and monitor the physical and financial progress of recovery;
- whether the damaged asset is owned by the local council and the level of maintenance that was being provided to the asset prior to the event;
- whether expenditure has been incurred within the allowable time period; and
- whether any expenditure is associated with betterment, mitigation or enhancement;
- provide recommendations to DTF regarding local council claims for reimbursement.
Department of Health and Human Services
After a natural disaster, the Department of Health and Human Services will:
- liaise with councils if contacted by councils to discuss eligibility of activities.
- upon receipt of a formal request from DTF, undertake a formal assessment of expenditure provided in a claim by a local council, giving consideration to the following:
- current eligibility;
- local media, State Emergency Service and Bureau of Meteorology reports;
- evidence of activities undertaken; and
- whether expenditure has been incurred within the allowable time period
- provide recommendations to DTF on local council claims for reimbursement.
- the determination of whether activities are eligible under the NDFA/NDRRA is initially undertaken by VicRoads, in conjunction with DTF and EMA, noting that the NDFA essentially mirrors the NDRRA.
- the Automated Claims Management System provides a single entry point for the submission of estimates, claims and advance payment requests from local councils. To arrange access to the system, please contact NDFA Team on (03) 9651 2327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.