• Tony Bosworth

Landowners unhappy with Council’s lack of timely support for flood-affected businesses – Templeman

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman has welcomed Hawkesbury Council’s public call on the NSW Government to keep its promise to streamline riverbank repairs processes for landowners still suffering the effects of the devastating March floods, but the MP says Hawkesbury Council shares some of the blame for the delay too.

MP Susan Templeman takes a look at the damage to the riverbank at Sackville Ski Gardens after the March floods - archive picture

This last week, Hawkesbury Mayor Patrick Conolly sent a media release out calling on the State government to get a move on with promised streamlined processes so riverbanks could be repaired, and asking for a meeting with Deputy Premier John Barilaro - which was not granted.

The Deputy Premier told the Post, “the NSW Government is currently finalising the program guidelines”.

But Ms Templeman says while Hills Shire Council has stepped up for its landowners, many in the Hawkesbury are angry at what they see as a lack of timely support for the recovery from Hawkesbury Council, in addition to no sign of promised government funding.

“Six months after the floods, not only are there still massive holes in the riverbanks, but a massive hole in the information that landowners need to be able to make repairs,” Ms Templeman said. “And for caravan park owners and operators, people are already ringing to make bookings for a post-COVID opening.

“I note that Council blames the State Government for the delay in the DA process,” Ms Templeman said.

“However, van park operators also tell me they are confused about why Hills Council has already allowed people to rebuild what they had on their park sites, while Hawkesbury Council has so far prevented van park owners from doing that here, even when the destroyed buildings were previously all approved.

“One van park operator says a caravan owner whose structure was approved only shortly before the flood hit has been told that he can’t rebuild.

“If there is going to be a change in the rules for these parks, then the owners of the caravan park, and the people who lease a site, need to be told what the future looks like.

“Caravan parks are looking forward to reopening when COVID restrictions are lifted, and while they could have been working on the riverbank damage and their sites over this time, they’ve been left in limbo by both the NSW Government and Hawkesbury Council,” said the MP.

“There’s still no sign of how the $18.5 million announced in July by the Morrison Government to help landowners do post-flood remediation work will be spent, despite the entire aim of the program being to get the work done quickly to protect businesses and the river.

“I have spoken to landowners who remained in limbo in the lead up to this six-month anniversary, and they’ve had to try and make the riverbanks safe without any support from any level of government.

“But they’ve done it with fear, because they are still waiting for a simple set of guidelines to follow - as they were promised – as well as a streamlined DA process.

“For many the job is so massive that they are still waiting for clear directions on what is allowed and what isn’t.

“They can’t leave the riverbanks as they are, but they fear reprisals for any work they do.

“I continue to hear concerns about the safety of the river, with debris – manmade and natural - still in the river and on the riverbank.

“And with the threat of a wet Spring, there really isn’t any time to spare to get this work done.”

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