Big business calls on State Govt to do more for flood recovery

ABOVE: The Norco Factory at South Lismore during the flood. Photo: Contributed

Susanna Freymark

Norco will rebuild at its current site in Lismore rather than relocate, and it will need financial support from governments for that rebuild.

Norco chief executive Michael Hampson said any rumours of Norco moving to Casino or anywhere else were a “fantasy”.

With milk bottling plants at Labrador and Raleigh and a rural store in Lismore, the flood damaged ice cream factory will be rebuilt in South Lismore despite it being in a flood zone.

Building a new factory at a new site would cost about $200 million, Mr Hampson said.

“We are 100% farmer-owned,” Mr Hampson said.

“Farmers have had a terrible time lately. We don’t have that kind of capital.”

To rebuild at the South Lismore site will cost more than $70 million plus capital and clean-up costs.

Unfortunately, Norco was “under-insured” because of its South Lismore flood location.

Without government support, large businesses such as Norco cannot survive.

Norco received an initial amount of $5.7 million from the $50 million Large Anchor Business Support Grant Fund to cover wages for the past four months.

The funding package was announced by the then Morrison government in March, but applications for the remaining $44.3 million funding only opened this week.

Norco joined forces with two other major employers, Summerland Credit Union’s John Williams and Mountain Blue Farms’ Andrew Bell, to send a message to the State Government.

The business leaders want the State Government to know the $44 million is not enough to support the recovery of businesses.

They are calling on the State Government to add $50 million to the fund.

“Why can’t they chip in?” Mr Hampson said.

A NSW Government spokesperson said applications had opened for the Anchor Business Support Program, a program the Federal Government had initially committed to funding on its own.

“The NSW Government this week committed to topping up the fund by contributing $15 million to support large businesses in the Northern Rivers.”

The Sunshine Sugar factory in Broadwater falls under the Large Anchor Business Support Grant Fund.

Premier Dominic Perrottet did not respond to our specific questions about contributing more to the fund and why it was taking so long for the anchor business fund money to be allocated.

Mr Hampson is tired of the politics between federal and state governments and the “us versus them” approach.

The last thing Norco want to do is to lay off its 240 staff. The funding for the staff runs out this month.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure everyone (small, medium, large businesses) is okay,” Mr Hampson said.

Money is needed for all businesses to rebuild. Mr Hampson wants the government to hear that message.

The region needs help now. Not in three months.  

At the Lismore Heart are Mountain Blue Farms director Andrew Bell, Norco’s Michael Hampson, Lismore mayor Steve Kreig and Summerland Credit Union’s John Williams.
Photo: Contributed
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