“Very real human cost”: As another flood crisis hits NSW, businesses urge a radical rethink of disaster support


Norco chief Michael Hampson (centre-left) and Lismore mayor Steve Krieg (centre-right) are calling for a rethink of disaster funding. Source: Supplied.

Businesses, homes and schools in Greater Sydney have been inundated with floodwaters as a dangerous east coast low lashes the region in the second major flooding disaster to hit New South Wales this year.

More than 34,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the wild weather continues as far north as Newcastle, down to the South Coast and as far inland as Oberon.

State Emergency Service deputy state duty commander Ashley Sullivan says volunteers had already responded to almost 3500 requests for assistance since the flood event began.

The ferocity of the weather system is set to ease off later this afternoon, though another 100mm of rain is forecast in Sydney today.

Many across the region were advised to work from home today as Transport for NSW warned roads and public transport are significantly affected by the dangerous weather.

It’ll be Groundhog Day for NSW residents, many of whom were forced to flee their homes and businesses mere months ago as February’s flood disaster hit.

Those in Sydney who are returning to inundated businesses this week should heed Service NSW advice from February to gather evidence to support their relief claims.

“To assist in accessing support in the future, take photographs of any visible damage to your business premises caused by storms and flooding as soon as it is safe to do so,” the site advises.

But questions about accessing flood relief remain unanswered for many businesses still reeling from February’s flooding disaster, particularly in the state’s worst-affected area: northern NSW.

Last week major employers Norco, Summerland Credit Union and Mountain Blue Farms joined forces with Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg in calling for more funding for the region’s recovery.

In a joint statement, the businesses say the Coalition government’s Anchor Business Support Package was all fanfare, no follow-through.

“Despite the guidelines for funding being recently released, there remains no further steps or information on how to apply, leaving many Lismore businesses in a state of limbo and unable to plan for the future,” the statement read.

“With questions around the size and scope of funding, the $44 million currently being proposed is simply not enough to support the needs of the major businesses, nor the wider Lismore business community.”

Norco chief executive Michael Hampson was grateful to receive some government support to date, keeping 240 workers in Lismore — some of who are still without a home — in employment at the company’s ice cream factory.

“However, that funding is due to end on July 15 and in the absence of any further details from the federal government, and confirmation that the state government won’t be contributing to any support package, we’ve been forced to make some very difficult business decisions,” he said.

Hampson says, unless they get access to more funding for the government, all staff at Norco’s ice cream facility will be stood down from July 15.

“[It’s] a move that the 100% farmer-owned co-op has been working tirelessly to avoid since the floods took place, but one they’ve been forced to make given their farmer members simply don’t have the means to cover workforce costs while there is no commercial output from the facility,” he said.

Hampson continues that the situation “highlights the very real human cost of the information and funding delays, but also puts a definitive timeline on the need for action and clarity”.

“It’s about the families our workforce supports, the many small to medium businesses that rely on our operation, the economic contribution our business makes to the community of Lismore, and indeed the other businesses in the community that need further support.”

Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg called for state and federal governments to double the flood relief business support package “to adequately support the needs of these businesses and safeguard jobs”.

He says a community’s full economic recovery “relies heavily on investment and commitment from businesses” who are not only employers but also contribute to the economic activity of a region.


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1 month ago

I whole heartedly support government funding across various levels to help those devastated by the flooding in Lismore and surrounding districts including businesses and residents. However isn’t it time to ensure businesses of a size like Norco move to an alternate suitable and nearby location that is not flood affected. It seems inept that significant government funding previously provided to support plant upgrades and expansion of their ice cream business in Lismore are effectively wasted due to the devastation experienced. To expect this to never happen again in their current location would be foolhardy and Lismore has always experienced various degrees of flooding over the years.

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