More help arriving for northern NSW towns
Clean-up and recovery efforts in northern NSW are being boosted with the arrival of about 1300 soldiers as the premier says helping devastated communities get back on their feet is his top priority.
The state government would do everything it could to help flood-ravaged communities in the Northern Rivers and on the east coast, Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday, after spending days visiting affected areas.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon has been appointed as northern NSW recovery co-ordinator and will work alongside Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
The premier says progress has been made in disaster responses but promises to review how emergencies are dealt with once the clean-up is completed as “there’s always things that governments can do better”.
About 1300 members of the ADF are expected to be on the ground in the Northern Rivers by the end of Tuesday, joining some 1600 emergency services personnel.
Housing remains a major task, with 887 people in temporary accommodation. The premier promised an announcement soon.
“We are completely focused on the clean up, housing and providing financial support,” Mr Perrottet said.
He acknowledged people felt let down by emergency services overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis, leaving many to be rescued by fellow citizens, while others were left homeless and isolated without food, water, cash, fuel and communications.
But he defended the reliance on volunteers to respond to natural disasters as a “wonderful system … based on that great spirit of service and volunteerism”.
A state of emergency has not been declared in NSW and the premier says the advice he has received suggests it is not yet necessary, with commonwealth and state agencies working together to co-ordinate the response.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole repeated calls for more on-the-ground assistance from the Australian Defence Force.
“We want to see more support, more ADF, more sets of hands on the ground supporting these communities that need it right now,” he said.
Emma Scott, who lives at Tyalgum, near Murwillumbah, is one of many critical of slow government efforts to provide food and supplies to her village that was cut off after landslides.
“A week is too long to wait for support when your house is inundated with flood water, your animals are at risk, and you have no water, power, food, fuel or internet,” she tweeted.
Mr Perrottet returned to Sydney for a crisis cabinet meeting on Tuesday to expedite the clean-up and get people into emergency accommodation but will return to the north of the state until Friday.
A fifth recovery centre will open in Casino by Wednesday, with centres already established in Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Kyogle and Lismore.
Mr Toole said the centres would help people who had lost everything, including identifying documents.
They will house numerous government agencies and staff providing support to flood victims.
“They will be a one-stop-shop and they are going to be continually rolled out … to ensure that these communities have got all the support that they need,” Mr Toole said.
Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul is offering grants of up to $3000 to flood-affected Northern Rivers residents as well as opening a flood-assistance centre in Lismore, Casino and Ballina.