Ms Ley (Farrer—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) 21 Nov 2022
I rise this evening to speak on the flooding events we’re seeing around the country, but in particular across my electorate of Farrer. First, I need to begin by acknowledging the many other communities throughout much of New South Wales which are also being impacted. The pictures we’re seeing, the stories, the deaths are truly heart-wrenching. If you need help during a flood or rain event, please contact the relevant emergency service or the SES on 132500. Both the New South Wales and federal governments have put in place a range of assistance measures which can help you get through this. But finding that support then negotiating your way around the application process is not always easy. Your local member of parliament, whether state or federal, is there to help.
In Farrer, record spring rainfall has resulted in flooding across every part of my electorate. Tonight there are major flood warnings on the Lachlan River, the Murrumbidgee, Murray and Edward rivers as well as the Lower Darling. In the last 24 hours evacuation orders were put in place for parts of Deniliquin and the small town of Moulamein. Orders remain in place for a number of other communities, many of which are being completely isolated, with all road access under water. Farmers and properties are increasingly being cut off from their own stock and from supplies or workers. Right now it’s only taking a short rain burst or a passing shower to top things up again and slow down any clean-up or recovery. An example of this is what we’re seeing on the Hay Plain. Floodwater has spread out from the swollen Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers, creating what looks like an inland sea. Actually, it really is an inland sea on what is the flattest land in the Southern Hemisphere.
Too much water is a sight repeated in every part of Farrer. We’re expected to stay waterlogged until at least the new year, and this will continue to drain the confidence of my communities. It’s not just a sodden crop or a road blocked off for a day or a week. Most of the electorate is heavily reliant on agriculture. When a farmer loses a crop, he or she doesn’t—or literally can’t—come into town to shop. Farmers don’t put on that extra hand to help with the harvest. They put off a service for their vehicles. They might cancel seed, diesel or fertiliser contracts.
Last Friday the federal and New South Wales governments increased recovery grants for primary producers to help with the immediate clean-up and recovery costs and to repair damage. That has increased up to $75,000 for eligible producers. That announcement was made just in the last couple of days. And I want to thank the two administrations for making that happen, but there is more to do. I would encourage the New South Wales government to consider adding the recovery assistance measures that are available in Victoria. That would mean assistance for local councils to help with the clean-up of local rubbish and hazards. It would also employ community recovery officers to coordinate this. Business and not-for-profit organisations could apply for $50,000 to fix damages. There would be up to $200,000 for eligible medium-sized businesses suffering direct losses caused by the floods. We would see grants for impacted community sport and recreation clubs to assist in their recovery.
Last week, visiting Corowa, the local footy and cricket oval was submerged, and so were the clubrooms. When I asked whether they had any cash reserves to help start the repair of assets, I was met with a faint smile and a look of resignation: not for this much damage. This additional recovery assistance must be enacted in New South Wales as soon as possible. The same damage to property and possessions in the same country simply has to be treated equally, and in a timely manner.
There’s no perfect response to handle what Mother Nature throws at us, but the men and women fronting up every day—and we’re talking over two months plus now—to manage the response are simply amazing. This includes the SES, Rural Fire Service, police, ambulance, health agencies, the National Emergency Management Agency, the ADF, Resilience NSW, local council officers and many, many more. Thanks also to the people volunteering, whether that’s to sandbag a town or property or just phoning a friend to see how they’re coping. You too are putting aside your own needs to be there for your fellow citizens in their time of need. As with droughts that come and go, and as with the floods of the past, we will get past this, and we will do it together.
My final call to action is: if you’re travelling over Christmas, come to the Riverina and Murray areas. Yes, the area is affected by flooding, but we have been smashed, with two tourist seasons in a row that haven’t happened. We want to see you, and we want to show you what will be some amazing rivers, amazing wetlands and amazing natural sites.