Huge gap in State funding for roads and flood recovery

ABOVE: Naughtons Gap Rd. Photo: Charles Wilkinson

‘State needs to do more to help people who have been through the flood ordeal,’ mayor says.

Last week’s council meeting was a big one. The last for the financial year so it included the budget.

The State Government’s lack of action on flood recovery was a theme throughout the meeting.

Here’s our summary of the Richmond Valley Council meeting on June 28.

Rate relief for flood affected

Mayor Robert Mustow asked if residents had to be registered with Service NSW to qualify for rate relief.

Yes, they did.

“We’re working with Service NSW on how the rate relief rebate will work,” general manager Vaughan Macdonald said.

“There will be communication rolling out to ratepayers.”

If you are a ratepayer who was impacted by the floods, make sure you are registered with Service NSW then wait for a letter/email from council about how to apply for rate relief.

What is happening with temporary housing and caravans?

Councillor Robert Hayes asked about the caravan take-up in Woodburn.

NSW Resilience was at the Woodburn Hub last week so residents could register for a caravan to be put in their yard while they repaired their flood damaged home.

Infrastructure and environment director Angela Jones said, “at least three caravans have been positioned”. (This was last Tuesday and there may be more caravans in Woodburn by now).

Mr Macdonald said the rollout was “frustrating”.

“Some are in place because the minister is visiting Woodburn later this week.”

Mr Macdonald said some people had expressed concerns about the temporary housing site at Park St in Evans Head.

“The State Government identified crown land sites. We identified six sites across Richmond Valley.” (Park St was not one of those sites)

One of those sites is the old Coraki Hospital site. There had been questions about a site in Casino too.

Ms Jones said it will take up to eight weeks to establish the temporary housing site in Coraki. Roads, water, sewer and concrete pads had to be established first.

“The pods are being built at Tweed and Byron and are being rolled out,” Mr Macdonald said.

Get a grant (if you can)

Mr Macdonald said there was a “high level of frustration” from business people applying for grants.

While the State Government had rolled out grants for large businesses like Norco and Sunshine Sugar, the response to small to medium size business in Woodburn who applied for the $200,000 grant was “not positive”, Mr Macdonald said.

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

“Sly Bros is as important to Woodburn as Norco is to Lismore,” he said.

No money had been made available to Sly Bros yet and “they have spent so much time on red tape”, Mr Macdonald said.

“Grants should be based on loss. This business lost $3.5 million and receives bugger all because of the number of employees.

“The visits from politicians to get support for businesses haven’t led to any decisions to help them.”

Businesses were doing their best to keep their employees, he said.

After the floods Richmond Valley Council was quick off the mark to put together a flood recovery report and hand it directly to Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Councillor Hayes said the Premier visited Sly Bros.

“He promised us the world. The criteria outweighs what people are trying to do,” Cr Hayes said.

“I’ve got no confidence we are going to get anywhere.”

They’ll give us a few caravans and walk away, he said.

“Same with the insurance companies.”

What about our rivers?

Councillor Patrick Deegan asked about the road going down to the Richmond River under the bridge in Casino.

“Are there options to build back better?” he said.

Mr Macdonald said Halsteads Drive was on crown land and council would do an assessment on the cost of repair but it was not a council asset.

“There is no specific funding for river restoration,” Mr Macdonald said.

CRY ME A RIVER: Update from EPA on Richmond River

“We are looking at properties close to the river.”

Mayor Mustow said houses by the river near eroded banks needed a buy-back option.

“There’s been nothing,” he said.

“We need support from the government. They’ve promised so much money but it’s not getting out to the community who need it and who have endured this ordeal.”

Roads, roads, roads

The completion of the Pacific Highway meant the RMS handed back roads they used to maintain to the council to maintain.

Ms Jones said Broadwater-Evans Head Rd had been classified as a regional road. Council did not want to take responsibility for the roundabouts and wanted the RMS to maintain them.

“Just because it becomes a regional road, doesn’t mean it comes with a pot of money,” Mr Macdonald said.

Mr Mustow said every council struggled with their roads.

“This (handback of roads) spreads our funding wider,” he said.

Resident Jack McFadden spoke at the meeting about the need to fix a dip that floods in the Woodburn-Coraki Rd.

ROADS: Fix the dip that floods ‘in my lifetime’

There were new names announced for new roads.

Sculling champ rejected for new road name

Here’s the budget

The reporting of the budget included a new fee for agents at the saleyards.

Agents and council lock horns over fees

The council’s 2022-2023 budget included a $50 million-plus capital works program for flood recovery.

A further $24 million was earmarked for 2023-2024 projects.

Mr Macdonald said it would be of little surprise to residents and ratepayers that this year’s budget had been challenging to construct.

Richmond Valley’s 1175km road network was severely damaged by flooding and it would take at least three years to repair all the damage, he said.

Council continued to assess the full extent of the repairs and expected further damage would emerge in the post-flood period as saturated pavements began to fail.

“At present, the estimated repair bill stands at $100 million, not including the cost of repairing major landslips in North Casino,” Mr Macdonald said.

Key roads included Bentley Rd, Bungawalbin-Whiporie Rd, Naughtons Gap Rd, Rappville Rd, Upper Cherry Tree Rd, Woodburn-Coraki Rd and Woodburn-Evans Head Rd.

And here are the increases for ratepayers

The budget also included some increases to rates and annual charges:

General rates to increase by 5.5%, consistent with the State Government-approved special rate variation.

Domestic waste charge to increase by 3.23%.

Non-domestic waste charge to increase by 4.58 %.

Annual water charges to increase by 5%.

Annual sewerage charges to increase by 3.2%.

The budget documents can be viewed and downloaded at the council’s website.

Floods destroyed a piano at a property between Coraki and Woodburn. Photo: Susanna Freymark
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