Assistance when it’s needed most
The recent flood events across the Central West have been unprecedented, affecting a broader area for a much longer period of time than past flood events.
Also unprecedented has been the swift and comprehensive response from government. Just two days after the first major flood peak at Forbes I was there with the Commonwealth Justice Minister Michael Keenan, Riverina MP Michael McCormack and Orange candidate Scott Barrett to announce disaster assistance funding.
While this announcement was based on the well-established Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, these were activated much quicker than they have been in past events. At the same time, we announced that retired NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens has been appointed as the Regional Recovery Coordinator to oversee the clean-up and recovery effort.
Mr Owens will support local recovery efforts and lead the regional coordination efforts from all agencies to support communities to rebuild and recover as quickly as possible.
This week, we once again stepped out to provide unprecedented assistance to communities affected by the flood. Together with Duncan Gay, I announced that additional roads funding would be made immediately available to all 21 councils that have been disaster-declared from this flood event. Each council will receive $500,000 over and above the support that they will receive through the standard natural disaster assistance regime. The five worst-affected councils – Forbes, Parkes, Lachlan, Bland and Hilltops – will receive $1 million each.
Being back in the region late last week, I had an opportunity to see firsthand how the response to these major floods was progressing. Evacuation orders were still in force for parts of Forbes, almost two weeks after they were first issued, and had also been applied to parts of Condobolin. In keeping with the unprecedented behaviour of the current flood, some of the floodwaters near Condobolin diverted around the main gauge, with the official water level falling while the level in town remained steady or rose!
But despite the challenges before the region, it was a testament to the country spirit to see the community pulling together. On the ground our emergency services, volunteers, councils, state agencies and the army were all working together extremely well.
Having the right support and government funding is critical to a successful emergency response and recovery – that is why we have been investing to speed up the recovery process – but without the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers and workers it simply wouldn’t be possible.
There’s a long way still to go for the people who’ve been affected by this event, but the strength of community spirit, combined with timely government support, mean that we’re well prepared going into the weeks and months ahead.