Lismore and Tweed LGAs have rightly been declared disaster zones and been provided with disaster relief funding under the Commonwealth’s Disaster Recovery Program.
Yet local communities just as hard hit in Byron and Ballina Shires are missing out.
Billinudgel in the north of Byron Shire was hit by the worst floods they’ve ever seen. The local pub, The Billinudgel Hotel, had prepared for the flood but the water came in faster and higher than they had expected and was well over the bar at its peak.
‘We live in a flood zone,’ said one local business owner.
‘We know that we need to prepare and we did. But it came up so much higher than it had before that things we’d placed out of previous flood range were destroyed.’
Another business who had prepared for the small to medium flood predicted for the area, they’d raised everything over the 50cm medium flood level, said that the flood had come 67cm up their walls.
The flood reached unprecedented levels with many businesses in the Billinudgel Industrial estate being inundated for the first time.
‘When I arrived at work there was an enormous log (approximately 7m long) at the top of the drive. I thought that someone had put it there to stop people driving in. It turned out that it was left there by the flood water.’
One resident in the town said that this was the second time in eight months that she had lost everything in the floods.
‘I just got everything up and took off with the kids and fled,’ she said.
When she returned to her home the fridge had been floated into the front room of the house and everything was destroyed.
‘It is hardest for the kids,’ she continued. ‘They lost all their things from toys to computers.’
But she praised the local community who had come to her aid and even her sons computer had been replaced.
Greens questioning why Byron and Ballina are missing out
‘It’s outrageous that the Prime Minister came to visit the North Coast to see our flood-ravaged communities, yet failed to recognise the major impact to towns like Mullumbimby, New Brighton, Billinudgel, South Golden Beach, Ocean Shores, Cabbage Tree Island and elsewhere, where houses were inundated and people’s property destroyed,’ said Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina.
‘Natural Disaster Areas has been declared in Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Tweed LGAs, yet only Tweed and Lismore LGAs have been given eligibility for financial support to assist them get back on their feet after this devastating event.
People affected by the flood in eligible areas can apply for a one-off payment of $1000 and a further $400 for each child under the age of 16 under the Commonwealth Disaster Recovery Program. Those who have lost their income due to the flood can apply for a regular cash Disaster Recovery Allowance for up to 13 weeks.
However, these payments are not available to the devastated communities in Byron and Ballina Shires.
‘While we absolutely support Tweed and Lismore LGA’s receiving disaster relief funding, it needs to recognised that areas in both Byron and Ballina Shires also suffered great damage,’ said Dawn Walker, Greens MLC.
‘They should also be eligible for support under the Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance programs.’
While the Commonwealth Disaster Recovery Program supplies the relief it is up to the States to determine which areas are eligible.
‘To apply for the funding you still have to prove that you are eligible through serious injury or major damage to property,’ said Smith.
‘We don’t see why the government doesn’t err on the side of generosity and give the people in these hard hit areas the chance to prove that they were seriously effected.’
Local MP Justine Elliot has joined her voice with the greens to demand more assistance from the Federal and State Governments. She is asking that they urgently activate Category C assistance under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).
‘Our region desperately requires more assistance from both the Federal and State Governments. They have the capacity to activate Natural Disaster Relief today to ensure that major and significant funding and assistance is delivered to our community,’ said Elliot.
‘The recent flood has been devastating for our region. We’ve had lives lost. We’ve seen family homes destroyed and we’ve seen local businesses completely ruined. Our Councils have had major infrastructure damage.
’We need urgent action. I’m demanding that both the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier deliver major funding to rebuild the North Coast by activating Category C funding through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements,’ Justine said.