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Army to help bury livestock killed in fires

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Army reservists will help bury more than one hundred thousand sheep and cattle killed in the bushfires.

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Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie confirmed Defence personnel would dig the pits required to bury livestock over the coming days and weeks.

“Bearing in mind, though, it’s about getting access to those still live fire grounds,” she told the ABC on Monday.

“Where it’s safe to do so we need to be getting in within a week, ideally, to really be dealing with the carcasses in an appropriate way.”

Senior members of the federal government are meeting in Canberra to discuss their response to the bushfire emergency.

Reconstructing bridges, roads and critical infrastructure destroyed by the blazes is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud was careful not to put a dollar estimate on how much the recovery would cost.

“If cabinet approves it, we will put in place a mechanism to get that money out the door as quickly as we can,” he told the ABC.

Scott Morrison has pledged to commit “everything that is needed and more” to the recovery effort.

The states will not be asked to match the federal government’s funding.

The prime minister has launched a national bushfire recovery agency, to be led by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin.

The agency will offer income support to farmers, small business owners and residents affected by the fires.

Farmers who lost stock will be an urgent priority as the government responds to the fires.

The National Farmers’ Federation estimates more than 100,000 livestock have been killed in the bushfires, either during the blazes or as a result of heat stress and smoke inhalation.

Many more herds perished in fires that tore through southern NSW over the weekend.

“We will be trying to take pre-emptive steps today with state agencies around making sure the disposal of the livestock is done quickly – there is a biosecurity risk there,” Littleproud said.

“We have to think about our native species that have been decimated by the fires, too, in terms of our recovery.”

For farmers with surviving livestock, fodder and water is being distributed to herds on blackened paddocks, while fencing and other farm infrastructure is repaired.

Water stocks contaminated by ash are also being investigated.

Mental health supports were also a major focus of the cabinet meeting.

“We won’t be just rebuilding infrastructure, we want to rebuild lives,” Littleproud said.

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