An eleven point bipartisan flood blueprint to help Lismore and Murwillumbah get ‘back on their feet’ following the recent devastation was unveiled by state Opposition Leader Luke Foley on a visit to the region this week.
Mr Foley was joined by NSW shadow minister for the North Coast, Walt Secord, when he visited Murwillumbah and Lismore on Tuesday.
After visiting Murwillumbah for the second time in two weeks and listening to businesses and residents, Mr Foley and Mr Secord were joined by Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith when they discussed the current situation with business owners in the CBD.
Lismore’s iconic Gollan Hotel where Queen Elizabeth visited in 1954, and is yet to reopen following the flood, was where Tammy Priddle explained their current situation and Mr Foley spoke to the media.
‘I see communities getting back on their feet but there is still a lot of government assistance to be provided,’ he said.
‘Particularly I’m hearing that those $15,000 assistance grants are not flowing as they should be.’
‘There’s too much bureaucratic nonsense around it, in that you have to spend $15,000 in order to get $15,000 from the government.’
‘There are so many small business people that are out of cash, they don’t have the cash.’
‘Surely a more sensible thing would be that you get quotes and then you get your $15,000 from the government.’
Mr Foley said he had also talked with larger businesses about payroll tax relief, which happened following the 1997 Thredbo disaster.
‘I called in parliament last week for an independent enquiry into the levees… to see what are the best mitigation measures for the future,’ he said.
Voluntary purchases of properties in flood zones was another measure Mr Foley said should be explored.
Following recent suggestions on social media that the SES should have notified people to evacuate earlier, Cr Smith said the organisation was examining all aspects of the flood to learn how they can be better prepared in the future.
He stressed as this was the first flood to over top the 2005 constructed levee, nobody knew what would happen.
The 11 point plan unveiled by Mr Foley and Mr Secord includes waiving payroll tax for companies for 12 months, an up to $100 million infrastructure rebuilding fund, $2.5 million for crisis accommodation, a $2 million Destination NSW tourism campaign, $800,000 for the SES to upgrade its database, reimbursing electricians charges to reconnect power, and a $50 million business recovery package.
‘History tells us this will not be the last flood so we need to learn from our mistakes so that governments and communities are better prepared for such events in the future,” Mr Foley said.
‘In Murwillumbah and Lismore many businesses have lost stock, plant, equipment and vehicles and are in danger of going under.
‘We can’t let that happen. We must secure the future of businesses and their communities on the North Coast.’
The NSW Labor plan included:
- A waiving of State Government’s payroll tax for companies in the region for 12 months until April 2018 – which would have been collected by the Office of State Revenue;
- A special one-off specific and targeted fund up to $100 million to assist North Coast local councils with roads, bridges and infrastructure repair directly related to the flood;
- A special one-off specific and targeted major and significant funding package up to $50 million to assist small, medium and large businesses including primary producers to cover cash flow shortfalls due to stock losses and damaged plant equipment as well as re-building;
- Work with the Federal Government and State Government to ensure that the joint Australian Government-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) Category C payment is made upon approval – recognising they do not have funds to pay for stock or equipment until they have a cash flow;
- Extend the disaster recovery payments to affected areas within the Byron Shire and extend Category C to other areas of the Tweed Shire including Tumbulgum, Burringbar, Stokers Siding, Mooball, and Crabbes Creek;
- Increase the funding available for floodplain management grants within the Office of Environment and Heritage from $31 million to $50 million to assist with a range of measures to improve floodplain risk for local government and around homes and businesses –whereby the State Government provides $2 for every $1 spent on flood mitigation measures;
(This includes voluntary house purchasing and voluntary house raising (VHR). We propose that it be extended to some businesses who wish to re-locate or VHR like those in Lismore and Murwillumbah as discussed with the Tweed Shire Council general manager.);
- One-off $2.5 million special fund to construct and/or adapt crisis accommodation for homeless in the region – in conjunction with local homeless service providers;
- Provide $2 million in funding to Destination NSW to fund a one-off targeted tourism promotion to attract visitors to continue the economic flow to the region to remind them that they have recovered from the floods;
- Re-imbursement for individuals and families for payments to electricians required prior to Essential Energy re-connecting power;
- Independent external inquiry into the Lismore and Murwillumbah levees in-conjunction with local government, emergency workers and the local community – as to whether they should be increased; re-directed or re-located; and
- One-off $800,000 assistance to SES branch to update its data base and contacts for businesses and families in flood prone.