• Tony Bosworth

$400 million flood disaster package – but how much for Hawkesbury and when will funds be delivered?

The Hawkesbury will be just one of the state’s 70 flood affected areas to see additional flood-damage funding flow, thanks to the latest federal and state government recovery package announced this week, but it’s not yet clear how much, where, and when.

From the wording of the government announcement you might think the $400m was all going to the Hawkesbury - “The Morrison and Berejiklian Governments have delivered a further $400 million in funding to support the Hawkesbury recover from the February and March 2021 storms and floods”.

But the Hawkesbury gets a share of that money – and at the moment, no-one knows how much.

The $400m in the so-called Phase 3 package – the earlier Phases were for immediate works and support – was announced by Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne, this week, and it does include a total (shared between councils) of $52.5m for the Community Infrastructure Repair Program which provides “targeted infrastructure repair and renewal in partnership with local councils in high to severely impacted disaster-declared LGAs”.

“I know that the Hawkesbury community has provided valuable feedback to all levels of government, and that has fed into the development of this comprehensive suite of new measures,” said Sen Payne.

“Funding is being directed at the repair and rebuild of major public assets and community infrastructure, in addition to industry-specific support for our local turf and vegetable farmers.

Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne

“Importantly, Phase 3 includes a dedicated funding package for the restoration of riverbanks which will assist private landowners, NSW Government Agencies and Councils to ensure post-flood remediation works on riverbanks can be done quickly,” the Senator said.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman told the Post the additional funding was welcome, but said we need to see the detail.

“These packages always sound impressive, but of course it is still unclear how and when these funds will be divided and delivered,” she said.

“The former Minister for Natural Disasters and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, stood alongside me at Bensons Lane in March to see the devastation that had occurred, and assured us all that he was committed to helping get those fields and Clubs back up and playing, so I am pleased that the funding has finally been agreed,” Ms Templeman says.

“I note that the Federal and NSW governments’ agreement is for a $400 million recovery package to be shared across the entire state, so it’s not clear how much of that funding will be used in the Hawkesbury.

“There are distinct buckets of funds, for sporting field repair, for primary producers and for businesses.

“For four months now I have been calling for all levels of government to urgently ensure landowners can complete emergency stabilisation works on Hawkesbury riverbanks so families and businesses can recover from the floods. I am glad to see some action is now being taken.

“Turf farmers, vegetable growers and caravan park owners have been left staring at unstable riverbanks since March, keeping worried eyes on holes larger than Olympic swimming pools gouged out of their land by floodwaters.

“The $18.5 million to restore the riverbank is welcome, but there’s no detail of how that funding will be shared across the more than 70 Local Government Areas in NSW impacted by the storms and floods, nor exactly who will be able to access it and for what purpose.

MP Susan Templeman and Minister David Littleproud (centre) meet locals at Bensons Lane just after the March floods

“People who missed out on the primary producer and small business grants will be able to apply for a smaller grant of up to $10,000, designed to reimburse rural landholders for the cost of clean-up activities, losses or damages not covered by insurance.

“That will be welcome by landholders who have off-farm incomes, which was a key reason people weren’t eligible.

“The package includes additional funds for mental health and wellbeing, but I’m not sure $14 million will go far across 70 Local Government Areas. I may sound like a broken record, but the investment in a Headspace to help tackle mental health problems for younger people would be the best start as a long term investment a government could make for wellbeing in the Hawkesbury.

“One of the most disappointing things about the announcement of this package is that a change of Federal Minister appears to have led to an end of any effort at bipartisanship in how we work together at a local level.

“I think everyone knows that I have collaborated with the NSW government agencies and worked closely with the former federal minister, David Littleproud, and the national recovery agency on getting the best outcomes for the Hawkesbury. It’s a pity that work isn’t acknowledged, but clearly the Morrison Government has every intention of reverting to its usual party-political ways,” Ms Templeman said.

Senator Payne said the latest funding was recognition the recovery effort was ongoing.

“Our Phase 1 and 2 recovery packages were designed to address immediate issues, such as debris removal and emergency loans for businesses, with individuals in the Hawkesbury receiving over $6.8 to date through the Disaster Recovery Allowance,” Sen Payne said.

If you require ongoing flood assistance, support and referral, you are urged to contact Service NSW on 13 77 88 or online via service.nsw.gov.au/floods

Information on disaster assistance is available on the Australian Government's Disaster Assist website at disasterassist.gov.au

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