The Forbes and Cowra communities devastated by flooding of the Lachlan River have been thrown an economic lifeline, with Nationals Member for Riverina Michael McCormack announcing disaster assistance is now available.
Mr McCormack said the assistance was targeted at Forbes and Cowra shire councils, residents, primary producers, small businesses and charities to help them recover.
Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).
“This is the news the people of Forbes and Cowra will be delighted and relieved to hear,” Mr McCormack said.
“The hopes of a bumper harvest have been washed away for some farmers, while the two councils have been hit with unplanned costs in dealing with floodwaters, homes have been damaged by water and charities have been working overtime to help those in need.”
Mr McCormack spent two days in Forbes this week as the Lachlan River overflowed its banks and has been in constant contact with Cowra Mayor Bill West for updates on the flood situation in his Local Government Area.
Forbes Mayor, Councillor Phyllis Miller, welcomed news of the disaster assistance package after the Lachlan River peaked at 10.53 metres at Iron Bridge.
“I am so excited this disaster assistance has been arranged as quickly as it has,” Cr Miller said.
“It’s tremendously important we have our Shire declared a natural disaster area because that helps our farming community, as well as our council and the general community.”
Councillor West said roads and farmland had been affected by flooding of the Lachlan River, which reached a peak of 12.8 metres at Cowra.
“Certainly, there has been an impact on roads and some infrastructure – bridges and culverts and fencing,” Cr West said.
Floodwaters have inundated hundreds of hectares of crops around Cowra and Forbes.
Both communities are nervously looking to the skies and predicted further rainfall this weekend which, if it comes, will place more pressure on Wyangala Dam, which has spilled over.
Mr McCormack repeated his calls for the dam wall to be raised 10 metres to hold a further 650 gigalitres of water.
“Increasing the capacity of Wyangala Dam will not only help prevent disasters like we are seeing now but will also deliver water to farmers when it is badly needed in times of drought,” Mr McCormack said.
The disaster assistance will help the Forbes and Cowra councils cover the costs associated with the operational response and repairing damaged essential public assets.
Local residents will also receive support to get back on their feet, including grants to replace essential household contents or repair structural damage to homes.
Assistance available under the DRFA may include:
• Help for eligible people whose homes or belongings have been damaged (eligibility criteria apply);
• Support for affected local councils to help with the costs of cleaning up and restoring damaged essential public assets;
• Concessional interest rate loans for small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations;
• Freight subsidies for primary producers; and
• Grants to eligible non-profit organisations.
For information on personal hardship and distress assistance, contact Service NSW on 13 77 88.
To apply for a concessional loan or grant, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au