NSW Rural Fire Service is in discussions with lawyers for Celeste Barber to find a way to unlock and distribute more than A$50 million raised by the comedian’s bushfire appeal that is being blocked from going to families in need or charities because of NSW RFS rules.
RFS rules say that state donations directed to the trustee of the service must be spent on firefighting equipment and training, not on families or charities, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Barber’s online appeal last month attracted more than one million donations from across the world as catastrophic bushfires devastated parts of NSW and the country.
NSW RFS spokesman James Morris says the service wants to distribute the money in line with Barber’s wishes but it isn’t confident it could be done because of legal reasons.
“We have our lawyers working with Celeste’s lawyers to find a way this can be done,” he told AAP on Sunday.
“Everyone is being amicable about it and we are working together to hopefully come to a solution.”
The NSW RFS trust exists solely for the purpose of supporting the volunteer-based fire and emergency service to assist with the cost of purchasing and maintaining firefighting equipment and providing training to volunteers, he added.
The setback comes as Barber prepares to host the huge Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert in Sydney on Sunday.
Profits from the event will go to the Red Cross’ disaster relief and recovery fund, rural and regional fire services, and the RSPCA’s bushfire appeal.
By Dominica Sanda