Singleton farmers and small businesses can still apply for the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme

SMOKE: A bushfire at Pelaw Main in December 2019. Picture: Marina Neil
SMOKE: A bushfire at Pelaw Main in December 2019. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter Valley farmers and small business owners who still haven't resolved legal matters arising from the devastating 2019-20 bushfires are being encouraged to talk to their local solicitor about accessing free legal advice via the Commonwealth-funded Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme.

Singleton is among 33 local government areas across New South Wales that are covered by the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme.

Under the scheme, primary producers and small business owners who are not eligible for free legal aid can ask their private solicitor to apply for funding of $2000 to help resolve a legal matter arising from the bushfires and up to $5000 for related expenses.

An eligible business or primary producer with more than one bushfire-related legal matter may receive more than one approval for legal services and related expenses.

This funding is in addition to legal assistance already available for individuals after a disaster.

Hunter Valley Law Society president Nada Vujat said legal issues arising from the bushfires can include insurance disputes, commercial leases, contract disputes, banking, planning and employment issues.

"If there are farmers and small business owners that are yet to resolve legal issues arising from the bushfires, they should talk to their solicitor about applying for this funding as soon as possible," she said.

"This process doesn't involve a lot of red tape and solicitors don't need to jump through hoops to apply for these grants.

"Solicitors just need to register once via Legal Aid's Grants Online Portal (if they are not already registered) and then they can apply for the grants."

Ms Vujat said farmers and small business owners need to be aware that, if they are eligible under the scheme, their solicitor must apply for the grants by June 30, 2021.

Law Society of NSW president Juliana Warner, said she was incredibly proud of the legal profession's efforts to help individuals, families and communities both during the bushfire crisis and on the road to recovery.

"Private solicitors and law firms have provided many hours of pro bono legal assistance to individuals, families and businesses dealing with legal issues from the bushfires," Ms Warner said.

"Solicitors have been at the coalface of recovery efforts in bushfire ravaged communities around the state and have played an important role in helping their clients to navigate the trauma of the disaster.

"Solicitors are very much part of the fabric of the community that they serve, and natural disasters like bushfires, floods and drought impact everyone in the community, in many ways."

The local government areas covered by the scheme are:

  • Armidale
  • Ballina
  • Bega Valley
  • Bellingen
  • Blue Mountains
  • Byron
  • Central Coast
  • Cessnock
  • Clarence Valley
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Eurobodalla
  • Glen Innes Severn
  • Hawkesbury
  • Inverell
  • Kempsey
  • Kyogle
  • Lismore
  • Lithgow
  • Mid-Coast
  • Mid-Western
  • Nambucca
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings
  • Queanbeyan-Palerang
  • Richmond Valley
  • Shoalhaven
  • Singleton
  • Snowy Monaro
  • Snowy Valleys
  • Tenterfield
  • Tweed
  • Walcha
  • Wingecarribee
  • Wollondilly