MP Barnaby Joyce says new program will support communities and protect local jobs

Walcha Council will consider applying for funding for the planned 2020 Walcha Motorcycle Festival
Walcha Council will consider applying for funding for the planned 2020 Walcha Motorcycle Festival

Walcha is among the towns the Federal Coalition Government is backing in fire-affected regions through a $10 million initiative.

Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants (RTBR) program would have two funding streams to support events, concerts, festivals and visitor attractions in fire-affected regions to assist with recovery efforts and encourage international and domestic visitors to come back to the regions.

The first stream will support smaller-scale events for grants up to $30,000.

The second stream will be targeted at the worst-affected tourism regions for larger events or projects such as art installations and tourist walks.

Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes said Council is looking at a range of funding paths available to support the local community.

"We will certainly be looking at this one," he said.

"The closure of the Oxley Highway and Thunderbolts Way last year reinforced how heavily we rely upon through and tourist traffic to sustain our businesses.

As we have committed to the motorcycle event again this year this grant is certainly an option to help make it sustainable

Eric Noakes

"As we have committed to the motorcycle event again this year this grant is certainly an option to help make it sustainable."

Mr Joyce said tourism had been a strong supporter of drought-affected communities and now this needed to extend to those affected by bushfire

."These grants will help get more people visiting areas in our electorate heavily affected by bushfire - places like Tenterfield, Glen Innes and Walcha - and inject much-needed tourism dollars back into the local economies of our towns," he said.

"I encourage those businesses who are interested in developing new attractions in the New England to apply for this grant program."

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said tourism was the lifeblood of many fire-affected communities and the aim of the RTBR program was to get tourists back into these regions.

"We know tourism businesses in fire-affected communities are currently doing it tough," Minister Birmingham said.

"This program is about encouraging international and domestic tourists to visit these regions and more importantly put tourism dollars back into these local economies, especially outside of regular peak visitor periods."

An expert panel has been appointed to provide advice on the grants program.

The members of the panel include Ms Sandra Chipchase - former Chief Executive Officer of Destination NSW, Mr Michael Luchich - South Australian State Director, Optus and Chairman of Country Arts South Australia and Sara Quon - Chief Executive Officer of Sovereign Hill Museums Association, Board Member of Visit Victoria and the Committee for Ballarat.