My Submission to the NSW Flood Inquiry

Preview Below - Click here to read my full submission

2022 NSW Flood Inquiry
20 May 2022

Dear Ms O’Kane and Mr Fuller

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry. The recent floods in the Northern Rivers have seriously impacted already highly impacted communities. Coming on the back of the 2017 floods, the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, and two years of the Covid19 pandemic, the floods this year have devastated our communities. People lost their lives, thousands of people have been traumatised and displaced, and many are suffering and will suffer from long-term mental health impacts, as well as poverty and homelessness. There were 3,396 homes made uninhabitable across the region and another 6,708 were inundated, worsening the existing housing crisis. People are living in cars, caravans, tents, garage floors, friend’s houses, or sleeping rough. The recovery across the electorate is ongoing and will be long term, not just the physical and economic rebuilding but flood-related emotional trauma.

As the Member for Ballina, my office has been kept busy with requests for assistance and information from constituents directly affected by the flooding events, as well as businesses that have suffered damage and losses. Constituents and small business owners have sought advice through my office about flood clean-up, temporary accommodation, and how to access financial support. During the first two weeks of the flood, my office provided rescue and evacuation information to our communities. I met with distressed and fearful people during and after the evacuation phase, and I have been kept up to date each week with the progress of the State government’s recovery plan, including the establishment of a Reconstruction Corporation.

My submission will focus on gaps and mis-steps in terms of rescue and recovery. Please note that in my discussion of combat agency response I am not at all critical of any member of the 14-plus combat agencies that assisted our communities. I want to highlight gaps and problems, so that solutions and preparedness can be identified and worked for. As elected representatives we need to support people in our communities to adapt to future supercharged storms and extreme weather events, including bushfires. We need to see planning reforms that inhibit development in weather and flood vulnerable localities, explore flood mitigation, refine local government responses to extreme weather events, resource councils, plan for housing relief in the Northern Rivers, deliver genuine, long-term mental health supports, improve telecommunications, address the shortage of rescue volunteers, and tackle problems in the transition from incident response to recovery. 

Click here to read my full submission

Greens MPs support for teachers, nurses and midwives, transport workers

An open letter to the teachers, nurses and midwives, transport workers, and unions taking industrial action this week:

As the Greens MPs in NSW Parliament, we are writing to express our unwavering support and solidarity for the industrial
actions you are taking this week.

While we know that thanks is not enough, we do want to say thank you for your tireless work. But that’s not all we want
to do. We also want to commit to your demands for an increase in pay, better conditions and more resources.

We firmly believe that teachers, nurses and midwives, transport workers, and all public sector workers deserve fair wages
and vastly improved conditions. That means addressing staffing shortages, fixing safety concerns and adequately
resourcing those working in our schools, hospitals, public services and on our public transport systems.

The 3% wage rise announced by the NSW Coalition government recently does not come close to covering the rises in the
cost of living and inflation, nor will it fix the decades of underfunding of our schools and hospitals, or the safety issues in
our transport network.

The Greens stand firm in our support of your demands. We reject the unfair wage freeze. We support mandated staff to
patient ratios in hospitals. We recognise the need to fix chronic staff shortages in schools, for urgent intervention to
alleviate unreasonable workloads, and for genuine investment to address long-standing safety issues.

We know that improved conditions and wages aren’t won easily. And we respect that you taking this action is the most
powerful way we can stand together to collectively advance our rights. The Greens will always support your right to strike,
and we stand in fierce opposition to the NSW Liberal/National Government’s recent announcement to impose heavy fines
on unions for taking strike action.

Thank you for taking action. We will continue to support you in Parliament, on the streets, and in your workplaces.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny Leong, Greens NSW Industrial Relations Spokesperson

Sue Higginson, Greens NSW Employment Spokesperson

Abigail Boyd, Greens NSW Transport Spokesperson

Cate Faehrmann, Greens NSW Health Spokesperson

Jamie Parker, Greens NSW Democracy Spokesperson

Tamara Smith, Greens NSW Education Spokesperson

 

Budget 2022: Long term gains, short term cuts

Media Release: 21 June 2022

The budget handed down today by the NSW Treasurer will support women and families over the long term and there are some solid investments in infrastructure in the Ballina electorate. However, in the short term there is nothing that addresses the acute housing shortage or cost of living pressures.

Ms Smith said, “I welcome the fact that the treasurer has committed to a universal free year of pre-kindergarten and the budget addresses the cost of child care and offers some relief to working families from next year. Lennox Head Public School will see some money this budget going towards the relocation and planning for the new school, and there is money for the Ballina Hospital re-development.”

“It is pretty shocking I think for people in our community that there is nothing in the budget that addresses our acute housing crisis or cost of living pressures in the here and now. Nurses and teachers are getting a pay rise slightly above the public sector wage cap – 3% this year and 3% next year, but when you consider that the cost of inflation is above 5% this represents a pay cut. This is cruel given the heroic work of our nurses and teachers during the pandemic.” Said Ms Smith

“ We know that billions are being spent on reconstruction post the floods,  but in terms of accessing permanent housing there is nothing in the budget whatsoever for flood affected families beyond temporary housing. More broadly we know that there are staff shortages across most small and medium businesses in the Ballina electorate and nothing in this budget will address what is key to that – no housing.”

“I welcome the investment in the electricity grid for the future in supporting renewable energy –and a continued commitment to solar rooftop. However, given how long people in our community were without power during and after the recent floods, I am very disappointed that battery rebates like the ones in South Australia and Victoria are not part of this budget so that people can prepare for the future.”

“What was starkly missing for me was any reference to adaptation to future natural disasters. Let’s hope that the Reconstruction Corporation is given a budget before they kick off on July 1, so that we can actually see if adaptation and supporting people to prepare for future extreme weather events, is part of the remit.”

 

Tamara Smith MP

Member for Ballina 

Community takes control of Short-Term Holiday Letting in Byron Shire

Media Release - 09 June 2022

Community takes control of Short-Term Holiday Letting in Byron Shire

Today the NSW Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, announced that Byron Shire Council and the Byron community will now have the power to cap short-term-holiday in the Shire.

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina said: “This is a fantastic win for our community because we get to shape the way our villages in Byron Shire grow rather than property developers and market forces.

“It is disappointing that we have to wait 12 months for Council’s proposed 90-day cap to be implemented across most of the Shire, but it will make a huge difference whenever it comes into effect.

“The Department of Planning’s own modelling shows that at least 1,500 whole homes will come onto the rental market once the 90-day cap is implemented. Given the housing crises in the Northern Rivers this cannot come into effect soon enough,” Ms Smith said. 

“The State government has recognised that Byron faces unique and exceptional circumstances, and has given the council the unique authority to control short-term holiday letting.

“The community has been lobbying for over a decade to reign in unfettered short-term holiday letting in Byron Shire and we have all been aghast at the statistics of 3000 plus whole homes being entirely let on holiday platforms at any one time” Ms Smith said.

“Our community will be one of the only communities in Australia that can decide how our towns grow in terms of prioritising homes for residents and workers and it comes after years of people facing loss of amenity from party houses and zero rental availability in Byron Shire.

“I thank Anthony Roberts for having the courage to stare down powerful lobbyists in order to support our community, and recognise the leadership of Byron Shire Council Director Shannon Burt for this outstanding outcome.”

 

Tamara Smith MP

Member for Ballina

The agriculture revolution is here!

Media Release - 25/02/2022

 

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina and Greens NSW Agriculture Spokesperson recently announced a new Greens Agriculture and Rural Land Use Policy.

"After extensive consultation with farmers, ecologists and Greens members I can announce our new Agriculture and Rural Land Use Policy. Our policy draws on principles of Regenerative Agriculture and Agro-ecology and presents a win-win for farming in New South Wales. Improving land use and food systems in NSW will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time improving long-term profitability and productivity, protecting ecosystems, and building more resilient communities". Ms Smith said

Listen to the full speech

 

Read the policy 

Regional NSW lockdown extension

26 August 21

Dear Premier,

I write in relation to your announcement this morning that the lockdown of Regional NSW would be extended until Friday 10 September. This announcement is a bitter blow for many in our community.

Despite what the media might say, the people of Northern NSW are willing to do their part and protect themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, the NSW Government is not providing the support necessary to allow this to happen.

We have seen vaccines diverted from Regional NSW despite our communities being some of those most at risk and ill-equipped to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

We have seen your Government refuse to resource a border checkpoint in the Northern Rivers despite the anxiety, stress, and burden this places on our border towns.

What we haven’t seen is the financial support that allows our businesses to survive, our people to stay employed, and our communities to stay at home.

We have been told that ‘we are all in this together’, but for the people of Regional NSW all we have shared in is the suffering.

Give our community the financial support to stay at home and give us access to vaccinations.

 

Tamara Smith MP

Member for Ballina

National Parks in NSW – trophy cabinets of LNP

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina, has welcomed the news that National Parks and Wildlife Service has acquired 37 hectares of land adjoining the Billinudgel Nature Reserve.

This land will be added to Billinudgel Nature reserve hence improving the resilience of the rainforest and coastal heathland plant communities. The addition will also consolidate vegetation links between Billinudgel Nature Reserve, the Tweed Valley Way and the Pacific Highway.

“I welcome any efforts to protect habitat for threatened flora and fauna species in our region. This move will protect habitat such as the Common Blossom-bat, Comb-crested Jacana and Davidson’s Plum, as well as the threatened Tweed koala,” Ms Smith said.

“Given that we live in one of the most biodiversity rich areas of the world, this addition to our National Park estate and further protection for our natural heritage is very welcome.

“An addition of 37 hectares of National Park estate in our region is not insignificant but as long as the Minister for the Environment, Matt Kean, insists on logging native forests, allowing core koala habitat to be destroyed en masse on rural land across the state and supporting new coal, National Parks are simply trophy cabinets.

“It is definitely a case of the left hand at odds with the right hand when it comes to the management of the environment by the Liberals and Nationals in NSW.  On the one hand the Minister says he wants to double koala populations, expand National Parks and end the expansion of coal mining in the State. On the other hand he is colluding with the Nationals and the right wing of his party to strip protections for koalas on rural land, log our native forests and expand coal mining.

“The employment of Malcolm Turnbull to oversee a complete transition to renewables and carbon neutrality in NSW was life-affirming. Sacking him a week later because the Murdoch press equates action on climate change with the end of capitalism was sickening to watch,” Ms Smith said.

 “Political responses to Covid-19 have shown us a different way of doing politics – a way that has allowed the good of the whole to trump the vested interests of the few. We must demand this approach when it comes to slowing global warming and protecting our endangered species.”

Member for Ballina welcomes closure of South Ballina Beach to 4WDs

Media Release - 25 March 2021

The Member for Ballina has welcomed the decision by NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, Crown Lands, Ballina Shire Council and Richmond Valley Council to close the 30km stretch of coast between South Ballina and Evans Head to 4WD’s and other vehicles.

Ms Smith said, “I applaud the multi-agency decision to restrict vehicles on South Ballina Beach and thank all of the residents and community members that have worked with my office over the last 6 years to advocate for better public safety and protection of Aboriginal Heritage and endangered species severely impacted by ever increasing vehicle traffic. “

$300,000 for Ballina Electorate announced through the Community Building Partnership Program

Media Release - 23 November 2020

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina, today announced $300,000 in funding for a total of 19 community projects through the 2020 Community Building Partnership Program.

“These funds will deliver much-needed improvements to local facilities in the Byron Shire across charities and small community organisations who through Covid-19 have struggled to undertake their usual fundraising activities,” Ms Smith said.

“This is fantastic news for the residents of Byron and Ballina shires. This grassroots funding will directly help to create a more vibrant and inclusive local community with positive social, environmental and recreational outcomes.

 “I congratulate all of the organisations that were successful in their application and look forward to seeing how these projects make a real difference to our community.” Ms Smith said.

Applications for the 2021 Program open in early 2021.

For more information about the NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership Program, visit t www.nsw.gov.au/cbp

 

Time is up for the visitor 4WD's on South Ballina beaches

Media Release - 13 October 2020

Tamara Smith MP is calling on Ballina Shire Council to immediately implement locals only Permits for 4WD access on all South Ballina Beaches. The Richmond police share her concern about public safety on the beach given the vast number of vehicles monitored during Operation Thor over the October long weekend and believe it is only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt.

Ms Smith said, “Time is up for the status quo and it is extremely disappointing that Crown Land and Ballina Shire Council have been unable to come up with a long term solution to a severe public safety issue that has been highlighted repeatedly by me, residents, Jali Land Council, environmentalists and the broader community for a number of years.”

“I will not stand by and wait for somebody to be hurt before action is taken and I am calling on Ballina Shire Council to introduce a permit system immediately for locals and Aboriginal members of our community only. Ideally, Crown Land would have resolved this by now but they have not and as it is a residential safety issue primarily I think that Council needs to step up and be the responsible adult in this situation.” said Ms Smith.

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