A state of emergency has been declared for flood-affected areas of New South Wales, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing additional disaster payments for Local Government Areas (LGAs) Richmond Valley, Lismore and Clarence Valley.

Mr Morrison originally recommended Queensland be included in the state of emergency, which was rejected by Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszuk.

Ms Palaszuk rejected the Prime Minister’s recommendation to the Governor-General to include the state in a National Emergency Declaration, stating that though the national emergency power would have been useful a week ago, floodwaters are going down and the state has its own power to manage the crisis.

The Prime Minister said LGAs were facing catastrophic conditions.

“The sheer scale and impact to these areas in northern NSW highlights the need for extra support right now,” Mr Morrison said.

“While people in northern New South Wales aren’t able to work, are still clearing out their homes and businesses, the extra two lots of $1,000 payments we’re rolling out to eligible families and individuals will give them some certainty as they start to rebuild their lives.”

Additional financial support

The next phase of Federal Government financial support includes:

  • An additional two weekly disaster payments for the catastrophe zones in the Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley LGAs, automatically paid for those who have already claimed and received the Federal Government Disaster Recovery Payment, at the current rate of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. These payments will be made from 15 and 22 March. The NRRA will also undertake assessment of possible additional LGAs that also meet the catastrophic impact assessment
  • Support for Norco in northern NSW on a bespoke business support package, in partnership with the NSW Government, to help restore operations of this key business and employer
  • $10 million to support the mental health of school-aged children in the Northern Rivers region affected by the recent flood event under the ‘Resilient Kids’ program
  • $800,000 to extend the Regional Small Business Support Program to include small businesses impacted by the recent flood event in New South Wales and Queensland for two RFCS regions, with a six month extension until 31 December 2022, as well as free and independent case managed financial counselling through the Rural Financial Counselling Service
  • $5.4 million to boost existing legal assistance services operating within affected communities
  • $25 million for emergency relief, food relief and financial counselling services
  • Approximately $6.9 million in support payments of $10,000 to assist early childhood education and care (ECEC) services affected by the floods where they have been closed for more than seven days. More severely impacted services will also be able to apply for Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances grants
  • $7 million to expand the Commonwealth’s business recovery and resilience service, Strengthening Business, into at least 30 of the most flood affected regions of northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland
  • $31.2 million to deliver immediate and longer term local mental health support services for individuals, families, and communities impacted by the disaster and to support communities to recover and build resilience across the flood affected communities
  • $4.7 million to ensure the immediate continuity of primary health care services for flood-impacted Australians

Federal Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience, Bridget McKenzie, said the government was also looking at how to support primary producers particularly in northern New South Wales.

“As people turn their minds to the future, we want them to know they’ve got options and we’ll be there to help them,” Ms McKenzie said.

“That’s why we’re working with New South Wales and Queensland to identify the priorities for the longer-term recovery under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.”

Federal Minister for Government Services, Linda Reynolds, said the additional $1,000 disaster payments would take immediate pressure off many families and allow them to focus on recovering from this major disaster event.

“The catastrophic scale and impact of what we’re seeing in this region of northern NSW is exactly why this extra support is needed,” Ms Reynolds said.

“The additional two $1,000 payments will automatically kick in for AGDRP recipients in the Lismore, Clarence Valley and Richmond Valley local government areas so there is no need for people to re-apply.

“Eligible adults in these three LGAs will receive a total payment of $3,000 each, plus a total of $1,200 for each child. I’d encourage anyone who has not yet applied for the disaster payment to do so as soon as possible.”

The Federal Government has paid $238.9 million in disaster payments to 205,700 individuals impacted in New South Wales, since the payments opened on 1 March, including $16.5 million to 14,342 individuals in northern NSW.

The Federal Government has also paid $146.3 million in disaster payments to 125,200 individuals impacted in Queensland, since the payments opened on 28 February.

Previously announced financial support 

The latest round of support is in addition to the $434.7 million package announced on 3 March by the Federal and New South Wales Governments, including:

  • Demand driven –$75,000 grants to assist primary producers that have suffered direct damage from the recent severe weather and flooding. New South Wales Government estimates this to initially be $111.5 million
  • Demand driven – $50,000 grants to assist small business and not-for-profit organisations that have suffered direct damage from the event. New South Wales Government estimates this to initially be $89.7 million
  • $210 million to assist affected communities with the clean-up and removal of flood and storm related damage, debris and green waste. This will enable LGAs to work with Resilience NSW and New South Wales Government agencies to coordinate clean-up activities in their communities
  • $1 million grants to impacted councils to assist with their immediate social, built, economic and environmental needs. This list may continue to grow.
  • $6.5 million to provide Community Recovery Officers to support communities impacted by this event

The Federal and Queensland Governments announced an initial $558.5 million jointly funded support package for flood affected Queensland communities in need, which included:

  • Demand driven grants –$75,000 for farmers and primary producers
  • Demand drive grants – $50,000 for affected small businesses and not-for-profit organisations
  • Demand driven grants –$20,000 for sporting and community clubs and associations
  • Nineteen affected councils will also be helped through a $1 million injection each to assist with urgent clean-up works.

Local Government New South Wales (LGNSW)  President Councillor, Darriea Turley, has welcomed the initial emergency funding, provided jointly to more than 45 councils by the State and Federal Governments.

“These payments of $1 million per council are already being deposited in council accounts, allowing immediate action and avoiding the costly delays that can drag out the process and traumatise the community even further,” Ms Turley said.

Defence support

The Federal Government has so far deployed more than 4,370 Australian Defence Force personnel to the flood zones, including 2,650 to northern New South Wales, and this support is expected to increase over coming days, with total deployments expected to reach 6,000 across New South Wales and Queensland by 13 March.

The ADF are also deploying additional tractors, front end loaders, bob cats, dump and lift trucks into the region, and have been inserted into communities including Evans Head, Coraki, Woodburn and Broadwater by helicopter, and have been on the ground in Wilson’s Creek, Main Arm and Repentance Creek.

National Emergency Declaration

On 9 March the Prime Minister recommended to the Governor-General to make a National Emergency Declaration covering the severe weather and flooding event across New South Wales and Queensland, to ensure that all government emergency powers are available.

This recommendation came a day before the Queensland Premier rejected the offer of a national emergency, stating that the national emergency power would come too late to assist the state’s clean-up efforts.

“I have made this decision today, in consultation with the Premiers, after further briefings from government agencies about the situation in northern New South Wales and seeing the catastrophe first hand. We introduced the power to make a National Emergency Declaration after the Black Summer bushfires and it will ensure our Ministers and agencies don’t face any unnecessary bureaucracy as they roll out what communities need,” Mr Morrison said.

“The feedback we’ve had from communities, state governments and my own ministers who have visited the impacted areas has helped us identify where the gaps are right now, and how we can get support out the door quickly to where it’s needed.”

The recovery and clean-up efforts are led by Resilience NSW and regional recovery coordinator, Deputy Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon, as well as by the Queensland Government and Major General Jake Ellwood.

Prime Minister visits Lismore

On 9 March, the Prime Minister visited Lismore to announce the additional financial support offered to Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley.

Mr Morrison visited the council chambers to discuss local clean-up efforts with local mayors, where he announced extra disaster payments.

The Prime Minister’s arrival was met with protesters, who criticised the government’s response time during the crisis. The protesters were kept 100m from the Prime Minister by a barrier of police officers.

Mr Morrison is also travelled to Brisbane on the 10 March to see their floods firsthand.

This is a developing story, stay up to date on the East Coast flood crisis here. 

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