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Byron Shire
May 19, 2022

Housing ‘pods’, rent support, mental health, mass cleanups and farmer grants after NR floods crisis

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Having spent a long time reflecting on the last 13 weeks since the floods devastated our region, many important issues have come to my attention – loss of homes, possessions, safety, schools suspended from flooding, chaos, death, loss of animals, extreme anxiety and desperation, and so much more.

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A trio of the state’s top ministers issued a media release on Sunday highlighting the NSW government’s response to the Northern Rivers flood disaster.

Premier Dominic Perrottet and Deputy Premier Paul O’Toole joined the minister for emergency services and resilience, Steph Cooke, to outline official funding and recovery efforts so far.

Ms Cooke recently took on an extra portfolio called Flood Recovery, dedicated to the challenges faced by communities across the northern part of NSW after devastating floods and landslides.

The Member for Cootamundra said on Facebook on Monday she had spent the weekend in Lismore.

Member for Cootamundra and NSW Minister for Emergeny Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke PIC: FB

More than 17,000 flood impacted buildings assessed by SES

The state government had shared costs of around $1.5 billion in recovery support with the federal government since disasters on the Northern Rivers were first declared, the media release said.

By Sunday 13 March, there were 8,000 staff from NSW emergency services and the Australian Defence Force working across the state, the ministers reported.

The official workers were reportedly making sure supplies reached communities still cut off by floodwaters and supporting communities to clean-up.

SES teams had carried out nearly 17,000 damage assessments on households, businesses and industry premises by Monday morning, Ms Cooke said via social media.

The minister said 3,657 homes had been classed as uninhabitable.

Record-breaking floods, record-breaking waste

Flood rubbish in Woodlark Street Lismore, 7 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

Data on the amount of waste left behind after the record-breaking floods was staggering.

More than 3,800 truckloads of waste had been taken to waste-to-waste transfer stations in Alstonville and Coraki, Ms Cooke said on Monday morning via Facebook.

‘More than 1,300 animal carcasses have been disposed of,’ the minister added.

The premier said there were nearly 100 clean-up crews working across the Northern Rivers and Hawkesbury regions, removing 4,000 tonnes of waste a day.

Mr Perrottet said clean-up crews had shifted the same amount of waste, on average, over four days that was shifted in four weeks after floods in Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Nambucca a year ago.

Flood refugees to be housed in motor homes, ‘pods’ and ‘recreation camps’, says gov’t

The SES had classed 3,657 homes as uninabitable across the Northern RIvers by Monday morning – Photo of Lismore flood by Mercedes Mambort.

2,000 people were starting to be shifted out of evacuation centres, hotels and motels into longer-term accommodation as part of a $285 million Temporary Housing Support Package funded by the federal and state government, the media release read.

Service NSW had helped 30,000 people with ‘everything from grants to replacing IDs’, the trio said, and was taking registrations from those who ‘expect they might need housing’.

The ministers said communities impacted by floods would soon have access to 16 weeks’ rental support, as well as temporary housing in the form of so-called ‘pods’ and ‘recreation camps’ on the Northern Rivers.

The Echo requested more information about the pods and a media spokesman for the premier said they were the same as those used after the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.

The spokesman said the self-contained pre-fabricated temporary homes were designed to be erected on flood affected properties so families could stay on-site while rebuilding and directed The Echo to more information online.

Two years ago the government partnered with the Minderoo Foundation’s Fire Fund to provide more than 100 temporary accommodation pods, government information online said.

The pods were described as stand-alone units with built-in electricity, water, cooking and toilets.

The information said the pods could accommodate individuals, couples or small families of up to four people.

They were reportedly available for people to live in for up to two years, rent free, after the Black Summer fires but it was unclear how long they would be available to those recovering from flood impacts.

Meanwhile, Ms Cooke said via social media twenty more motor homes were due to arrive in Lismore today.

A total of 120 motor homes were destined for the area, Ms Cooke said, with more due to arrive in coming days.

A housing brokerage service enabling the Australian Red Cross to work with private rental companies, such as Airbnb and Stayz, would help connect people with rental homes, the NSW government said.

Sunday’s official response summary also included $25 million in mental health support.

Help applying for government support was available via Resilience NSW, which had ten recovery centres open as of Monday morning.

The government said more recovery centres would open in areas where emergency evacuation orders were lifted.

Ms Cooke said 57 local government areas had been declared disaster zones.

More than 400 farmers apply for gov’t help after floods

Deputy Premier Paul O’Toole said Primary Producer grants had been activated faster than ever before, with farmers able to access up to $15,000 immediately, and up to a total of $75,000.

Mr O’Toole said the government had already received more than 400 applications for the grants.

The deputy premier said the government had also helped farmers by delivering 1.9 tonnes of fodder.

More information about government assistance was available online.

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  1. It is sad how disgusting our society has become, constantly creating different outcomes for different people in the same circumstances.

    First we got some unemployed people being classified as “employed but with zero hours” and given $1500 a fortnight of jobkeeper payment, plus Centrelink top-up, while other unemoyed peoole got way less.

    Now we get some homeless people getting $444 a week (single) to $1125 a week (families) of rent assistance while other people on Centrelink payments get around $160 a fortnight rent assistance – or nothing if they are homeless, in a car.

    Imagine if we had any political party that was focused on social justice, that noticed such unfairness and campaigned against it

  2. The Greens paint themselves as the political party that stands for social justice – what a joke. I will not even consider voting for them until they demonstrate a sense of fairness, and campaign for equity in government welfare. The shortage of housing was a huge issue even before the floods. Now we have even more reason to tackle it – for ALL people, whether you’ve been homeless or impoverished by unemployment for a long time, or have suddenly been made homeless by flood. Why should the former person receive $80 per week and yet the another gets $444 a week for rent assistance? Where is the justice in that?
    I fear that people who have already been waiting for mental health services will also get the rough end of the pineapple. Of course it is important that trauma counselling is provided as quickly as possible for flood victims but what about the backlog of people in dire need of help for months or years already?
    Where will we get the money for this? By raising taxes on high income earners – the way life used to be. I dare The Greens to campaign for that too.

    • Divisive tactics, I can only imagine, to reaffirm social classes, in face of a real threat to the political status quo: There’s latent solidarity to be found in times of crisis between people who didn’t have a home and those who are confronted with the fragility of their entitlement to theirs and their modest wealth when they lose it. The poor/renters remain invisible and the aspirational – whose plight to rebuild their property is a focus for the media – remain preoccupied in light of disproportionate assistance. It’s formulaic.

  3. Spangled drongo it is the Greens Party that is divisive – any objective person can see that calling for some unemployed people to get 80% of their previous wage/salary from the government while other unemployed people get the pittance that is jobseeker payment, as the Greens did, is utterly divisive. Same with calling for people who pay for insurance to have to pay more tax to rebuild houses for people who didn’t

    • Shane Adams, you’ve given the Greens a bollocking but if I recall correctly at the time JobKeepr was proposed ( as its flaws were highlighted ) it was the ACTU and the Greens wanting JobKeeper to be ‘fixed’, the ALP waved JobKeeper through, deliberately leaving hundreds of thousands behind.

      There is one mob that loves dividing the country, the mob that gives us such slogan gems as:
      -“Team Australia”,
      – “The Taxed and the Taxed-not”,
      – “Lifters not Leaners”,
      – “If you have ago, you get a go”
      It the same mob that loves demonising those most in need of help and then gives them a kicking for extra good measure by terrorising them with ‘RoboRobberyDebt’.


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