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Charities defend bushfire relief policy amid donation stockpiling claims

Charities defend bushfire relief policy amid donation stockpiling claims

Australia’s leading charities have defended their bushfire relief plans after it was revealed that only less than one-third of the donations have been released to fire-affected communities.

The Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have been accused of stockpiling the cash donations.

Speaking at a press conference in Batemans Bay on Wednesday, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said it was “gutting” to learn that millions of dollars were yet to be handed out.

“The money is needed now, not sitting in a Red Cross bank account earning interest so they can map out their next three years and do their marketing,” said Constance.

“We need a very real change, very quickly so that the money can get to those who need it most … people are on their knees and we can’t have a drip-feed.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the charities are betraying donators’ trust.

“To read that organisations like Red Cross are putting some of that money aside for a future crisis or emergency is not in the spirit of what I believe Australians gave that money,” he said.

On Thursday, Red Cross NSW director Poppy Brown said $30 million out of the $115 million raised had been allocated to emergency relief grants.

Brown said the organisation had enlisted an advisory panel to help budget the remaining money for long term recovery initiatives.

“Any interest earned on those funds will just add to the money that goes out to those communities,” she said.

“We’re already paying out a million dollars a day, we’ll keep paying out money as it’s needed.

“And we’ll make sure that there’s still some left to help people, those same communities, in their recovery because we know it’s going to be a long term need.”

The charity said it had paid out 690 grants worth a total of $6.9 million to people who have lost their homes.

Since November, the Salvation Army’s disaster appeal had collected $44 million in donations and distributed $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief.

St Vincent De Paul has so far raised $12.5 million and handed out $1.1 million to eligible individuals in NSW. “We’re doing as well we can,” the charity’s CEO Jack de Groot told 7News.

“It’s not perfect but the co-ordination is going fairly well.”