It was a disaster, now it’s a tragedy – rally reminds government not to forget people

ABOVE: Residents put their messages on umbrellas and cardboard at the Woodburn rally.

Susanna Freymark

The placards said it all at the Woodburn rally today, Saturday, July 8.

‘It was a disaster, now it’s a tragedy.’

‘Please do not abandon us.’

‘House lift now. Leave no one behind.’

‘Mapped as priority, no help.’

Debbie Johnston from Bungawalbin.

It’s been a tough time for many residents who had calls from Service NSW staff on behalf of the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation informing them they would not be getting help for a buyback, retrofit or for house-raising.

About 300 people were at the rally outside the Woodburn Visitor Information Centre next to the Richmond River.

It was a bright, sunny day. The river that flooded into homes in February–March last year was sparkling and looked innocuous, innocent. It was almost unimaginable that the river rose so high that locals, horses and cars were stranded on the bridge that connects the two sides of Woodburn.

Rally organiser Beverley Rawson said the 18 months since the floods had been “a long haul”.

Clarence State MP Richie Williamson spoke to the crowd.

“This is a humanitarian crisis we are dealing with,” he said.

“The premier agreed it was a humanitarian crisis. We need to do better – the government, the politicians – everyone in the decision-making chain needs to do better.”

Mr Williamson said all MPs and mayors in the region were advocating the second round of funding.

Locals walk across the bridge at the rally.

Lismore State MP Janelle Saffin spoke as well.

“You say you feel forgotten,” she said.

“I have not forgotten you. It was an inland tsunami.”

Despite not representing Woodburn, Ms Saffin said, “You are in my heart.”

“What’s happening is not good enough.

“They (NRRC) couldn’t communicate. They couldn’t communicate with maps. Let’s get rid of the bloody maps.”

Ms Saffin said she hoped the tranche 2 funding would come from the State Government.

“I’ve never seen such poor communication from a government agency,” she said.

Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow said, “We have been forgotten.”

“NRRC has given people hope and pulled the rug out from under them,” he said.

He had some good news.

“The Woodburn service station DA is very close to being finalised.”

Don’t forget Coraki, Australia

Mr Mustow said he had emphasised to the premier that local government needed to be able to give input into the flood recovery.

“They haven’t lived through what we have.

“We are trying as hard as we can and I think we can bring this home.”

Evans Head resident Lyndall Murray from the Hands and Hearts Project was at the rally.

“NRRC’s decision broke my heart,” she said.

“We’ve got 16 volunteers who have got together to rebuild 100 homes.”

The Hands and Hearts Project is doing what the government won’t.

After the speeches the crowd walked over the Woodburn Bridge and Jack Wood took shots with his drone.

The names of places that flooded were written on banners.

Across political parties and broken promises, the people were there to be heard and to be seen. And to not be forgotten.

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