Prime Minister declares flood crisis a national emergency

Prime Minister declares flood crisis a national emergency

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recommended the flood crisis in New South Wales and Queensland be declared a national emergency, with the federal government announcing more support is on the way for flood-ravaged communities in both states. 

The financial support will include two additional weekly disaster payments for certain catastrophe zones, as well as support for businesses and funding for emergency relief, food and financial counselling services. 

The move comes after the federal government agreed to a $435 million jointly-funded support package with NSW and committed to funding half of a $558.5 million package put in place to help flood-affected Queensland communities.

When the Governor General signs the declaration on Friday, it will be the first time such a response has been made by the Federal Government. The mechanism was created in response to the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires and permits the federal government to deploy Defence Force personnel alongside additional support to catastrophe-hit parts of the country.

“I intend to recommend to the Governor-General to make a National Emergency Declaration covering this severe weather and flooding event across New South Wales and Queensland to ensure all our emergency powers are available and that we cut through any red tape we might face in delivering services and support on the ground,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“I have made this decision today, in consultation with the Premiers, after further briefings from government agencies about the situation in northern NSW and seeing the catastrophe firsthand. 

“The feedback we’ve had from communities, state governments and my own ministers who have visited the impacted areas has helped us identify where the gaps are right now, and how we can get support out the door quickly to where it’s needed.”

The full package includes: 

  • An additional two weekly disaster payments for the catastrophe zones in the Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley LGAs, automatically paid for those who have already claimed and received the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, at the current rate of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. These payments will be made from 15 and 22 March. The NRRA will also undertake assessment of possible additional LGAs that also meet the catastrophic impact assessment
  • Support for Norco in northern NSW on a bespoke business support package, in partnership with the NSW Government, to help restore operations of this key business and employer
  • $10 million to support the mental health of school-aged children in the Northern Rivers region affected by the recent flood event under the ‘Resilient Kids’ program
  • $800,000 to extend the Regional Small Business Support Program to include small businesses impacted by the recent flood event in NSW and QLD for two RFCS regions, with a six month extension until 31 December 2022, as well as free and independent case managed financial counselling through the Rural Financial Counselling Service
  • $5.4 million to boost existing legal assistance services operating within affected communities
  • $25 million for emergency relief, food relief and financial counselling services
  • Approximately $6.9 million in support payments of $10,000 to assist early childhood education and care (ECEC) services affected by the floods where they have been closed for more than seven days. More severely impacted services will also be able to apply for Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances grants
  • $7 million to expand the Commonwealth’s business recovery and resilience service, Strengthening Business, into at least 30 of the most flood affected regions of northern New South Wales (NSW) and south-eastern Queensland
  • $31.2 million to deliver immediate and longer term local mental health support services for individuals, families, and communities impacted by the disaster and to support communities to recover and build resilience across the flood affected communities 
  • $4.7 million to ensure the immediate continuity of primary health care services for flood-impacted Australians

The announcement comes as 59 evacuation orders were in place throughout NSW yesterday, affecting 40,000 people as weather experts raised concerns for the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment where many areas experienced water levels equal to or greater than March 2021.

Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) spokesperson Dean Narramore confirmed today “it is the wettest start to Sydney on record, with 872mm falling since 1 January.”

“Right now, the flood peak is approaching the Windsor area falling just below 14 metres. This is almost a metre higher than the floods we saw last year,” Narramore said.

“Numerous other communities and residents on the Hawkesbury River and downstream are likely to see the flood rivers peak sometime today and only slowly recede in the coming days.”

The BoM has issued a flood warning for Hawkesbury-Nepean River residents, with major flooding near or above March 2021 occuring at North Richmond, Windsor, Sackville, Lower Portland and Wisemans Ferry.

Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience Bridget McKenzie said the Government was also looking at how to support primary producers, particularly in northern NSW.

“As people turn their minds to the future, we want them to know they’ve got options and we’ll be there to help them,” Minister McKenzie said.

“That’s why we’re working with NSW and Queensland to identify the priorities for the longer-term recovery under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.”

In a press conference earlier today, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said $6.83 million in community recovery grants have been handed out to more than 38,000 people.

“It's good to see that money quickly out the door,” the Premier said.

The Queensland state government also confirmed more than 17,000 damage assessments have been completed. Of those, 2,534 properties suffered “moderate” damage and 1,797 were categorised as “severe”.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has reported today a total of 107,844 insurance claims in relation to the flooding in both states. 

It represents an 11 per cent spike from the figures released yesterday and was primarily driven by a 25 per cent increase in claims from NSW.

Across both states 80 per cent of claims were for domestic property, followed by 17 per cent for motor vehicles and 3 per cent for commercial property.

Based on previous flood events, ICA estimates the current cost of claims now stands at $1.62 billion.

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