Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina, today in parliament called on the National Party's NSW State Emergency Minister to assure the communities of Byron and Ballina Shire that he was not playing politics at their expense when he made the decision to deem only Tweed and Lismore (both National Party State Seats) as eligible for Commonwealth Disaster Recovery Payments.
Ms Smith said, “How is it even logical to think that the State Government was able with total assurance to decide that only the Local Government Areas of Tweed and Lismore were eligible? Even a single property can stretch across two LGAs!"
“This suggests that flood waters and inundation respect the arbitrary boundaries of local government areas. The NSW Minister for Emergency services Troy Grant and fellow National party Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin are responsible for the recommendation and data presented to the Commonwealth," said Ms Smith.
Ms Smith questioned the ludicrous nature of this decision; “You could literally have been standing up to your neck in water in Billinudgel located within Byron Shire and have been looking at your neighbour up to their necks in water in Uki located within Tweed Shire, but currently only the flood victim in the Tweed is eligible for immediate relief.”
This is in sharp contrast to large areas in Queensland, such as the whole of the Gold Coast, that the Queensland Government was able to recommend for Disaster Recovery Payments within the same short time frame as NSW.
"I have appealed to the State Minister and to the Flood Recovery Co-ordinator Euan Ferguson, to hasten their assessment process of Byron and Ballina shires so that people from Cabbage Tree Island, Mullumbimby, Billinudgel, South Golden Beach, Middle Pocket, Wilson's Creek and Ocean Shores, to name a few of the worst flood affected areas, can get access to the money that people in Queensland, Tweed and Lismore are able to apply for.”
"What the NSW Minister should have done is err on the side of generosity and have assured his Commonwealth Minister that all communities within the National Disaster area were eligible. People still need to prove that they are eligible for the payments so it’s not as though people can rort the system.”
“The payment of $1000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child would be of immense help to flood affected residents in Byron and Ballina. That is enough for a family to replace a damaged fridge or to buy new bedding and clothes. Families and elderly people are suffering now – they need that money now.”
“Flood waters don’t know about Local Government Area boundaries, they just destroy everything in their path. The Minister for Emergency Services must act now to help the flood affected residents of Byron and Ballina,” said Ms Smith.