$41m bill for NSW floods

EARLY SIGNS: Floodwaters take their toll on Lismore with waters rising in Bridge Street, North Lismore.
EARLY SIGNS: Floodwaters take their toll on Lismore with waters rising in Bridge Street, North Lismore.

THE DAMAGE bill for the disastrous May floods that directly affected more than half a million people across 15 local government areas has come in at more than $41 million across the North Coast.

The official report of the flood recovery co-ordinator, Ken Moroney, to be released today, shows that rural industries like livestock and horticulture suffered the biggest losses across the region at $33.2 million.

The floods, which were triggered by months of severe storms and heavy rain, left around 12,400 people isolated by floodwaters on the Northern Rivers and forced 8740 people to be evacuated from their homes or businesses, according to the report.

It found that more than 6850 insurance claims related to the natural disaster were lodged in NSW with a value of $21.2 million.

These were mostly for light property damage, but also for damage to vehicles and floor flooding which made properties unliveable.

In the wake of the floods, which collapsed roads, brought down electricity lines and decimated farms, recovery centres were established at Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Kempsey.

According to Mr Moroney's report to the NSW Government, between May 28 and July 10 this year more than 6500 people dropped in to one of the those centres and more than 1600 people called them.

Centrelink provided a whopping $6.255 million in relief payments through the Australian Government Disaster Relief Payment scheme across the two hardest-hit regions.

Mr Moroney, whose report made 21 recommendations for improvement of flood recovery, warning and education systems, praised the resilience of the residents throughout Northern NSW.

“I have been greatly impressed by the resilience of individuals, the commitment to service by the agencies of government and, importantly, their determination to recover and rebuild,” Mr Moroney said in the report's foreword.

The report noted that more than 130 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers responded to the disaster in the Richmond-Tweed region, along with five helicopters.

There were 47 SES flood rescues carried out and 1532 requests for assistance.

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan, who received the report earlier this month, said the response to the May floods was effective, but the report would help improve the existing systems.

“We can always learn from every experience and the work and recommendations of Mr Moroney will be tremendously beneficial as we continue to refine and build on our processes for future recovery operations,” he said in a statement.

• Total cost to the North Coast - including business, tourism, agriculture, roads and social services - $41.15m.
 • Centrelink relief payments across Northern NSW - $6.255m.
• 47 SES flood rescues carried out across the Richmond-Tweed and 1532 requests for assistance.
• 12,400 people isolated by floodwaters.
• 8740 people fled their homes or businesses.  


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