Victoria’s Natural Disaster Financial Assistance (NDFA) scheme administered by the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance, is available to local councils and Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) to relieve 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 one, or a combination of the following rapid onset events: bushfire; earthquake; flood; storm; cyclone; storm surge; landslide; tsunami; meteorite strike; or tornado. Since 2010, the NDRRA has included terrorist acts (occurring within Australia) as an eligible disaster.

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).

What is the NDFA scheme available for?

Specifically, financial support is provided to assist local councils and CMAs with costs associated with:

  • certain counter disaster operations, including repairs to assets damaged by counter disaster operations (councils only);
  • some operational activities mainly associated with the establishment of a Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre (MECC), relief or recovery centre (councils only).
  • 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 (councils and CMAs); and

How much is the financial assistance?

  • For emergency protection works and counter disaster operations, the Victorian Government will meet the full cost of approved works;
  • For the restoration of essential public assets, the Victorian Government will meet 75 per cent of approved restoration costs between $10 000 and $110 000, and 100 per cent of the proportion of costs above $110 000.  Costs are generally only recognised for the restoration of assets to their prior condition, and the first $10 000 is to be contributed by the council.

Does there need to be a declaration from the State or Commonwealth Government for councils or CMAs to access financial assistance through the NDFA scheme?

No declaration is currently required for councils to seek financial assistance associated with the undertaking of eligible counter disaster operations and the repair and reinstatement of essential public assets. However, DTF encourages councils and CMAs to contact DTF to advise whether they have been affected as soon as possible after a natural disaster.

How do councils and Catchment Management Authorities apply?

Local councils and CMAs are required to advise DTF as soon as practically possible, that they have been impacted by a natural disaster. To assist DTF in determining whether the event needs to be notified to the Commonwealth to activate assistance under the NDRRA, local councils and CMAs are requested to provide advice on the estimated cost of eligible expenditure including the restoration of damaged essential council and CMA infrastructure, and the establishment of relief and recovery centres (councils only). DTF will then liaise with Emergency Management Victoria to organise a notification to be prepared for the Commonwealth for each natural disaster, activating eligible measures by local government area.

Councils and CMAs are requested to input the estimated cost into the Automated Claims Management System (ACMS) as soon as practically possible. for each event. If an original estimate is incorrect or has been revised, the system allows for revised estimates to be provided.

All councils and CMAs have authorised users with access to this system. The system can be accessed via the NDFA website (External link).

For any queries, please contact the NDFA Team on (03)  9136 2174 or (External link).

What should be included in the claim?

The ACMS requires attachments to be lodged in support of a claim. This enables DTF and VicRoads to conduct a formal assessment of each claim.

Following an audit conducted on behalf of the Commonwealth on natural disaster expenditure in 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers have reminded DTF that that local councils and CMAs are required to provide evidence of impact to their assets, including specific roads or stormwater infrastructure. This evidence should demonstrate the connection between the damage to a particular natural disaster event as well as the pre-condition of the damaged asset, to show that local councils and CMAs are maintaining their assets sufficiently.

Can councils and CMAs submit separate claims for the one event?

If additional work has been completed after a claim has been assessed by VicRoads (for councils) or DELWP (CMAs), it is recommended that councils and CMAs submit a separate claim for the additional expenditure. Councils and CMAs impacted by multiple events should lodge a separate claim for each event.

Councils and CMAs may also wish to separate claims for different types of expenditure (i.e. counter disaster operations/emergency protection works/asset restoration), depending on their financial requirements, although this is not mandatory.

Expenditure within one claim should relate to the same financial year.

Can a council vary a claim after it is lodged in the ACMS?

Councils and CMAs can make changes to their claim while it is still in draft but cannot vary the content or amount of a claim once it has been lodged in the ACMS. Once councils and CMAs submit their claim but require further changes to be made, they should contact DTF as soon as practicable to enable the claim to be returned for further amendment. Once the claim is assigned to the assessing agencies, it should be noted that no change can be made to the claim.

Should further costs be incurred after the assessment is finalised, an additional claim should be submitted.

How long is the claim process?

Councils and CMAs should ensure that they submit regular claims to DTF (i.e. monthly or quarterly).

Upon receipt of the claim, the assessing agency carries out a formal assessment of any damage to damaged essential public assets.

Once the assessment has been completed by the assessing agency, DTF will approve the assessment amount and notify the council or CMA. This process can take between six to eight weeks to fully complete, however this can vary depending on the size and complexity of the claim.

Councils and CMAs should notify DTF and their relevant assessing agency, at the time of the natural disaster as this involvement will assist in substantiating the claim.

How do councils and CMAs get paid? Should the invoice include GST?

Once a claim has been approved, councils and CMAs will receive an email notification from the ACMS outlining the total amount of financial assistance that has been approved. Councils and CMAs should then submit an invoice for the approved amount through the ACMS to receive payment. The invoice for financial assistance should be exclusive of GST.

Is there a time limit as to when a claim must be lodged after an event?

Consistent with the NDRRA, all expenditure must occur within a period less than two years after the end of the financial year in which the relevant natural disaster occurred. Councils and CMAs should note that any claims for financial assistance must cover only expenditure incurred within this timeframe. To assist DTF in meeting audit and reporting requirements to the Commonwealth, claims must be submitted by 31 July after the end of the allowable time period.

If you are unable to meet this timeline, please contact the NDFA Team as soon as possible on (03) 9136 2174 or (External link).