Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has spoken in state parliament about the impact last year’s floods had on residents in Byron and Ballina Shires.
And while she had nothing but praise for the SES, Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre and the Red Cross in responding to the disaster, Ms Smith said the state and federal Liberal/National governments had turned their backs on her constituents while responding quickly to the needs of the Tweed and Lismore electorates, which have National Party representatives.
‘I pay tribute to the people of the Ballina electorate who were affected just over 12 months ago when Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit our region. The March-April 2017 floods were one of the most significant events to impact the Northern Rivers region in the past 40 years,’ Ms Smith said.
In the Ballina shire, an estimated 100 residents were evacuated from Cabbage Tree Island by the State Emergency Service as a precaution due to concerns about water supply and sewerage.
‘About 1,000 families in the Byron shire experienced flooded homes. They had to replace carpets, refrigerators, washing machines, sofas, beds and other household items.
‘However, they were not deemed eligible for the Disaster Recovery Payment or for the Disaster Recovery Allowance, for almost four months, despite the Lismore and Tweed electorates being ruled eligible within a few days.
‘The Byron Shire Council estimates that the floods affected just over 1,000 properties in the Byron shire, which equates to one fifth of the community. The Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner survey of Byron shire businesses found that 74 businesses reported that the flood had an impact on their operations.
‘In the absence of an official disaster recovery centre being established, the Mullumbimby and District Neighbourhood Centre set up a pop up centre of its own. The centre, which provides a meal service, reported that the demand for meals went from 50 a day to 100 a day following Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
‘The amazing manager, Julie Williams, said the centre assisted residents from Mullumbimby, Main Arm, Billinudgel, Crabbes Creek, Burringbar, New Brighton, Ocean Shores, Goonengerry, Federal, Wilsons Creek and South Golden Beach in the days and weeks after the floods. Residents in The Pocket and Brunswick Heads also reported flood damage,’ said Ms Smith.
The Red Cross visited approximately 280 homes in Billinudgel, Mullumbimby, New Brighton, Ocean Shores, South Golden Beach, Main Arm and Middle Pocket to check on the welfare of people. Overall, the SES received in excess of 3,400 requests for assistance and more than1,500 emergency service personnel were deployed to the Northern Rivers region during the event.
‘I commend the SES personnel for their flood rescue response. I could not be more proud of the NSW Rural Fire Service and SES volunteers as well as all of our first responder rescue service men and women,’ said Ms Smith.
‘The way that my community responded to the floods a year ago is a testament to their character and resilience and their willingness to lend a hand to others.
‘It is still a shock to me and a matter of disgrace that this attitude was not extended by both state and federal governments when it came to disaster relief. People are still recovering and there is still much work to do.
‘With a warming planet, we need to be ready in the future and governments of the day must respond with generosity from day one,’ Ms Smith said.