9 May 2017
NORTH COAST FLOODS RELIEF ASSISTANCE
Ms TAMARA SMITH: My question is directed to the Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services. Will the Minister urge his Federal counterpart to declare flood‑affected areas of my electorate, such as Billinudgel, Ocean Shores, New Brighton and Mullumbimby, eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance and the Australian Government Category C Disaster Relief and Recovery for affected business?
Mr TROY GRANT ( Dubbo—Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services) (15:07): The short answer to the question is yes, I have. As I have done publicly, I thank the member for Ballina for the work she has been doing on the ground to support her community, as they rebuild following the destruction that occurred in the Northern Rivers area. I know about the unique difficulties members of her community face because they do not fall clearly into the eligibility criteria for disaster relief. Very early on 21 April, I visited her electorate and met with Mayor Simon Richardson, general manager Ken Gainger and director Mark Arnold. I spent two hours discussing the issues and inspecting the damage and impactsunique to the Byron shire.
That was extremely helpful. I am thankful to the council staff for providing me with such detailed information about the localised impacts and some of the gaps that appeared. I know the importance of seeing damage firsthand to gain a proper understanding and to hear examples from locals who have been affected but not assisted under the arrangements. At 7.30 a.m., after hearing those concerns, I immediately got on the phone to Minister Keenan and raised the issues directly with him. I did not wait. As the question asked, I strongly encouraged him to look at the arrangements for the shire.
It has been proven to me on multiple occasions that the Northern Rivers community are a resilient bunch. Despite their resilience, they still need our help. As a Government, we will be there to continue supporting that community as we try to overcome some of the gaps. I have been assisted by Parliamentary Secretary Ben Franklin, who has done a mighty job to ensure that information additional to what we heard in the meeting continues to flow in. I have asked Minister Keenan to consider once again extending the Australian Government national disaster funding payments to more areas. For the member for Ballina, I have specifically asked him to include the Byron shire. Members know that the Commonwealth has a specific and rather rigid set of requirements regarding declaring natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements. It sets the thresholds that need to be met but, as they say in the country, there is more than one way to cook the goose. We need to think outside the square.
From a State Government perspective, I could not be more grateful to all agencies, including those of the Minister for Family and Community Services that are providing welfare. I have heard how terrific, available and accessible they have been. The Minister for Mental Health and her department and agencies have done a wonderful job. The Department of Primary Industries, Local Land Services, Roads and Maritime Services and every government department that has been part of the recovery effort has also done wonderful work. To give comfort to the member for Ballina, I have supported, and I will continue to support, her community to make that consideration more tangible as quickly as possible.