A Northern Rivers man went viral on the weekend after posting an emotional video slamming state and federal governments for being “lazy”, and the media for not reporting what the region needs, in the wake of the deadly floods.
Benjamin Berry previously vowed “never to speak to media” but agreed to an interview on Channel Seven’s Sunrise and radio station Triple M Sydney on the condition he could let audiences know how to help flood victims.
He said producers at the morning show and radio station told him they “only cared about getting the word out” but cut his interview short to move onto “more important news”.
“I did the interview and they just cut everything I wanted to get across, they painted me like a hero and I hate that … that’s not helping anyone,” he says.
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In Berry’s five-minute video he slammed the state and federal governments for disorganisation, describing government officials as “lazy” and continuing that “they’re sitting in places like Canberra, they’re doing nothing. They need to get their asses in gear”.
The federal government has committed 5000 Australian Defence Force personnel to assist, with 900 deployed from today into affected regions, though some videos appear to show questionable work being done.
“They need to tell us what they’re doing. No one knows what the government’s doing yet. There’s no central point of contact. That’s what you need in an emergency. You need a chain of command and a central point of contact. Just give us that. Please give us something,” he says.
Berry, who says he has a background in emergency services, thanked people for “turning up with brooms and shovels” but urged “skilled human resources” to make their way to disaster-affected places instead.
“We had guerrilla guys on our boats who have been stood down, firefighters still doing rescues, but with no resources, no comms, nothing. Outside of the system,” he says in the video.
“We’ve got nurses turning up to evac centres, filling their first aid kits with what they can scavenge from friends and family or what they can pay for at pharmacies. This is ridiculous. This is not Australian.”
He also called for more food and water to funnel into the worst affected regions, which are Mullumbimby, Main Arm, Wilsons Creek, Burringbar, South Golden, Lismore, Chinderah, Kingscliff, Murwillumbah, and Ballina.
“Right now, Mullumbimby is out of water. Water is not a safety issue, it’s a life and death issue. They have no water. We’re carting water into them — that can’t continue. Water sustains human life. It’s literally what we need to survive. We need to get water there. The government needs to help us get water there,” he sas.
Girl Geek Academy CEO Sarah Moran, who is a Lismore resident, told SmartCompany “there are no businesses left in the CBD” of her area.
About “43,000 people have lost everything (including my dad’s business, my uncle’s home and business, my aunt’s homes and business, my school mates homes and businesses),” she says.
“These people haven’t simply lost their businesses, they’ve lost their homes too.”
There is growing anger in the region over what many are saying is an inadequate response from the state and federal government — around 30,000 people have so far signed a petition urging the state government to declare NSW’s Northern Rivers a state of emergency.
On Sunday, opposition emergency services spokesman Jihad Dib described flood-hit communities as exhausted, saying many locals are “at absolute breaking point”.
“The local communities and people from outside of those local communities are doing all that they can, but they can’t carry the full load by themselves,” he says.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Saturday pledged his government would not “spare a dollar” in funding the recovery.
Over the weekend the federal government expanded the local government areas able to access one-off disaster relief cash payments of up to $1000 for adults, while up to $50,000 grants are available for SMEs.