More flood grants rolled out but no go for bakery dough

ABOVE: The bakery in Woodburn was the first shop to open after the floods. Photo: Susanna Freymark

Susanna Freymark

The bakery in Woodburn was the first shop to open after the floods.

Warm bread, hot coffee, a chat over an apple turnover became monumental things to do after the flood decimated the river town. 

The bakery offered a place to connect and talk about the trauma of the disaster.

Bakery owner Sandra Aarts put in an enormous effort to re-open the bakery and when she did, media around the country were interested in telling the story.

The bakery opening was a sign of hope in the flood ravaged town.

Every single business along River St had the guts of its building ripped out by the fast floodwaters.

Even after the innards of the buildings were hosed out and dried, the rank odour of the flood lingered.

People were broken. Some had lost everything – their home and business premises.

Some like Sandra Aarts who owns three bakeries including the one in Woodburn managed to get the heavy bakery equipment onto the back of a ute and drive it to the top of a hill before the flood hit. 

Yet 77 days after the flood, Ms Aarts has not received the flood recovery grant for small businesses.

Her business was deemed ineligible.

“I have a company Wurlitzer Enterprises. Under that banner I have three shops. We were told we employed too many staff to be a small business” Ms Aarts said. 

“Woodburn shop has three staff but they (Service NSW) base it on the whole three bakeries.” 

For two weeks, the Wurlitzer Bakery in Evans Head was closed for two weeks because  there were no staff. 

“They couldn’t get to Evans as we were cut off,” Ms Aarts said.

“Twenty-one of my 42 staff lost everything.”

To get the economy and towns going Ms Aarts opened her bakeries as quickly as possible. She did this twice after both floods.

When the State Government finally announced flood recovery grants for small businesses, it was a relief. 

But for business owners like Ms Aarts that relief has turned into frustration.

“I’m done talking about it,” she said.

Three weeks ago we received information from Service NSW about grant application from small businesses in Richmond Valley.

Service NSW had received 291 Flood Disaster Recovery grant applications.

Of these, 145 were in progress with 82 deemed ineligible. 

One of those ineligble businesses was the Woodburn Bakery.

A further 58 applications, with a total of $878,503 have been paid and six more applications were approved for payment.

Now the State Government has announced flood grants up to $200,000 for medium size business. A medium size business employs between 21 and 199 employees.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the State Government was providing the grant to medium-sized businesses in the Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley and Kyogle LGAs. 

Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed were also included in this round of grants.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the grants could be used to pay for cleaning up business premises,disposing of spoiled goods, building repairs, leasing of temporary premises, and purchasing and hiring equipment.

“There are currently more than 230 assessors working seven days a week to assess applications and ensure all eligible businesses can receive support as soon as possible,” Ms Cooke said.

For more information, visit here.

Businesses can also request a call back from the Service NSW Business Concierge on 13 77 88 or visit a local Recovery Centre.

Staff at Recovery Centres can also assist with the flood recovery property assessment and demolition program which has so far assisted 81 applications from the Richmond Valley.

To provide greater clarity on what customers may be eligible for the NSW Government has developed an online questionnaire here.

Cleaning up the bakery in Woodburn after the flood. Photo: Susanna Freymark

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