NSW Opposition Labor Leader Luke Foley today returned to the NSW North Coast to continue his consultations with businesses and community representatives getting back on their feet after the devastating March floods.

He also renewed his call on the State Liberal-National Government to waive payroll tax for flood affected businesses and to set up two separate funds – a local government infrastructure fund and a business assistance one.

At meetings a fortnight ago in Lismore and Murwillumbah, Mr Foley pledged to return to hear the latest on their recovery efforts.

Mr Foley attended the meetings with NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord and Federal MP for Richmond Justine Elliot.

Mr Foley gave a commitment to raise their concerns in State Parliament – which he did. In fact, Mr Foley devoted two days (May 2 and 3) in State Parliament’s Question Time to the plight of North Coast families affected by the floods.

He also unveiled an 11-point bipartisan blueprint to help the flood affected community.

To date the Liberal-National Government has failed to lend support let alone adopt the plan, despite the offer of bipartisan support from Labor.

The NSW Labor plan included: 

  • A waiving of State Government’s payroll tax for companies in the region for 12 months until April 2018 – which would have been collected by the Office of State Revenue;
  • A special one-off specific and targeted fund up to $100 million to assist North Coast local councils with roads, bridges and infrastructure repair directly related to the flood;
  • A special one-off specific and targeted major and significant funding package up to $50 million to assist small, medium and large businesses including primary producers to cover cash flow shortfalls due to stock losses and damaged plant equipment as well as re-building;
  • Work with the Federal Government and State Government to ensure that the joint Australian Government-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) Category C payment is made upon approval – recognising they do not have funds to pay for stock or equipment until they have a cash flow;
  • Extend the disaster recovery payments to affected areas within the Byron Shire and extend Category C to other areas of the Tweed Shire including Tumbulgum, Burringbar, Stokers Siding, Mooball, and Crabbes Creek;
  • Increase the funding available for floodplain management grants within the Office of Environment and Heritage from $31 million to $50 million to assist with a range of measures to improve floodplain risk for local government and around homes and businesses – whereby the State Government provides $2 for every $1 spent on flood mitigation measures;

(This includes voluntary house purchasing and voluntary house raising (VHR). We propose that it be extended to some businesses who wish to re-locate or VHR like those in Lismore and Murwillumbah as discussed with the Tweed Shire Council general manager.);

  • One-off $2.5 million special fund to construct and/or adapt crisis accommodation for homeless in the region - in conjunction with local homeless service providers;
  • Provide $2 million in funding to Destination NSW to fund a one-off targeted tourism promotion to attract visitors to continue the economic flow to the region to remind them that they have recovered from the floods;
  • Re-imbursement for individuals and families for payments to electricians required prior to Essential Energy re-connecting power;
  • Independent external inquiry into the Lismore and Murwillumbah levees in-conjunction with local government, emergency workers and the local community – as to whether they should be increased; re-directed or re-located; and
  • One-off $800,000 assistance to SES branch to update its data base and contacts for businesses and families in flood prone areas.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“Nothing beats hearing from people firsthand about their experiences on the ground to get an insight of how governments can do better in responding to emergencies. 

“I am here not just to listen but to let people know that the North Coast is very much in our minds in Macquarie Street.

“History tells us this will not be the last flood so we need to learn from our mistakes so that governments and communities are better prepared for such events in the future.

“In Murwillumbah and Lismore many businesses have lost stock, plant, equipment and vehicles and are in danger of going under. We can’t let that happen. We must secure the future of businesses and their communities on the North Coast.

I look forward to hearing from members of the communities and businesses on my visit.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord

“The Labor Opposition provides its bipartisan support at State and Federal levels to the recovery of the region as the North Coast starts to rebuild and heal after the worst floods in more than 50 years. That offer to the Liberal-National Government still stands.

Quotes attributable to Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot

“Luke Foley has advocated on behalf of the people of the North Coast after worst flood event in decades. I appreciate his visits and his preparedness to listen to the community and help them as they try to get their lives back on track. 

Labor stands with the community every step of the way.”