HAWKESBURY SUFFERS WHILE $4BN DISASTER FUND SITS IDLE

By Terri Butler MP, Senator Murray Watt, Susan Templeman MP

20 April 2021

More than $4 billion of federal disaster funding still remains untouched by the Morrison Government, despite much of New South Wales suffering a “once in a generation” flood last month.

The floods caused over $1 billion worth of damage in New South Wales, and left thousands of residents displaced.

But as clean up efforts continue in many regions, the full environmental impact of the disaster is now becoming clear.

Waterways, particularly in the Hawkesbury region, have been slammed by major environmental damage and are now blocking the road to flood recovery due to silt and debris build up.

Erosion and collapsing riverbanks across south east NSW, which are still trying to recover from the Black Summer bushfires, are likely to create an ongoing risk to the river ecosystems.

The Morrison Government must act now to fix this disastrous environmental damage.

The Federal Government is yet to announce any specific funding to help restore these areas, despite controlling a number of programs they could fund environmental recovery through.

The Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements are capable of funding environmental recovery.

Likewise, the Government’s $4 billion Emergency Response Fund (ERF) – announced two years ago but never spent - could be accessed for this recovery. The fund can provide up to $200 million per financial year to be spent nationally on natural disaster recovery and mitigation.

That means the Morrison Government could have invested $400 million in recovery and mitigation works over the past two years, but it has failed to spend a cent.

Now it’s been revealed through the Department’s Investment Performance and Financials the Government has earned at least $370 million in interest while the (ERF) money has been sitting in the bank.

It’s just another example of Scott Morrison being there for the announcement, but never delivering what was promised.

Natural disaster funding cannot be used to prop up the Morrison Government’s budget bottom line.

The Prime Minister must immediately commit funding to fix the environmental damage caused by the Hawkesbury floods.

Quotes attributable to Susan Templeman, Member for Macquarie:

Ms Templeman said because the Hawkesbury river was a “working river” supporting vegetables, turf, pasture and fishing industries, the disaster was both economic and environmental.

“What I’ve seen along the Hawkesbury River isn’t erosion, it’s devastation. Holes the size of two storey houses run along the river’s edge, where soil, trees and all manner of items have collapsed into the river,” Ms Templeman said.

“There’s an urgent need for safety measures and stabilisation, and then a plan to guide private landholders on what they can do to recover.

“I can’t stress the urgency of the situation enough. With fears of more rain, the environmental damage will only get worse, and people’s ability to recover on their properties will be further compromised, and the Federal Government should be providing assistance for appropriate remediation and mitigation works swiftly.”

TUESDAY, 20 APRIL 2021