NSW Labor today announced a non-partisan flood package for the NSW North Coast – providing a blueprint for the Berejiklian Government to help the community and businesses recover.

It includes the waiving of payroll tax and the setting up of two one-off infrastructure and business assistance funds for businesses and local councils.

Furthermore, there is an expansion of the existing housing and business flood raising and purchasing plan for those in flood prone areas.

This is in response to on-going discussions and meetings with NSW Labor with political, community and business leaders on the North Coast.

The Berejiklian and Turnbull governments are being criticised for their failure to appropriately respond to the massive flooding on the North Coast.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley asked the NSW Premier a number of questions on the subject in the Parliament today.

The plan is also a template for future responses to natural disasters – depending on the severity – as they may occur after March 2019.

The package was developed after a meeting with Murwillumbah and Lismore businesses affected by the late-March 2017 floods. It was chaired by Federal Richmond MP, Justine Elliot and attended by NSW Labor leader Luke Foley and Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord on April 20.

NSW Labor in conjunction with Federal, State and local government colleagues, has put forward an 11-point flood impact recovery package for the North Coast – particularly, the communities of Murwillumbah and Lismore.

The NSW Labor plan includes:

  • 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 as a number of businesses were unable to be contacted during the emergency

It will require co-operation and agreement of all three levels of government – local, State and Federal.

This response is patterned on the July 1997 Thredbo landslip State Government recovery package announced by the-then NSW Premier Bob Carr.

The impact has been felt across the whole community from individuals to families to not-for-profit community groups to small businesses and medium to large-sized businesses as well as local government and primary producers, tourism and hospitality sectors.

While Labor recognises that tourism is a key industry on the North Coast, it also acknowledges that there are strong business communities in Lismore and Murwillumbah.  This includes transport, accounting, earthmoving and food manufacturing companies. They have suffered significant losses in destroyed stock, plant, equipment and vehicles.

In Murwillumbah alone, these tier one businesses employ more than 500 employees and their removal from the economy would have a significant economic impact through the flow-on and multiplier effect.  In Murwillumbah, these jobs amount to almost six per cent of the entire population of 9000.

Mr Foley said this was about securing the future of businesses and their communities on the North Coast – especially Lismore and Murwillumbah.

The plan also recognises that there were some sections of Byron Shire affected, but they were not properly acknowledged.

The package was formulated after discussions with affected families, businesses and local community leaders in the region including Federal MP Justine Elliot, Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith and Tweed Shire Mayor Katie Milne as well as Tweed Shire Labor Councillor Reece Byrnes.

In addition, they held a roundtable with businesses in Murwillumbah and spoke to affected businesses in Lismore.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley and Isaac Smith (Mayor of Lismore) speaking with residents in Lismore in April.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley and Isaac Smith (Mayor of Lismore) with Lifeline Volunteers at Lismore Showground