Clean-up and recovery efforts in northern NSW are being boosted with the arrival of almost 1000 soldiers as the premier says helping the devastated communities get back on their feet is his top priority.
“That is my number-one priority right now,” Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday.
He said there were about 1600 emergency services personnel on the ground in the region, with 900 ADF members arriving on Tuesday, and promised to review how emergencies were dealt with once the clean-up was completed.
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“We want the clean-up to be conducted as quickly as possible, so we can get these communities back on their feet,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
The premier has spent this week surveying flood damage in Lismore and surrounding towns in the Northern Rivers region.
“The sights there are devastating,” he said.
He acknowledged people felt let down by emergency services that were overwhelmed by the scope of the crisis, leaving many to be rescued by fellow citizens, while others were left homeless and isolated without essentials like food, water, cash, fuel and communications.
“I’m incredibly sorry,” Mr Perrottet said.
Emma Scott, 37, a project manager who lives at Tyalgum, near Murwillumbah, is one of many critical of slow government efforts to provide food and supplies to her village that was cut off after landslides.
“When we see the Sikh community and local celebrities being more present and proactive in supporting affected communities in times of crisis than public services, we have an abject failure of government,” she tweeted.
“A week is too long to wait for support when your house is inundated with flood water, your animals are at risk, and you have no water, power, food, fuel or internet”
The premier acknowledged that without the “courage and heroism of so many people going out and looking after and rescuing strangers” there would have been more fatalities.
“It’s very clear to me that over the course of this period during many heartbreaking stories that that’s how many people feel,” he said.
Mr Perrottet has returned to Sydney to host a crisis cabinet meeting on Tuesday to deal with the challenge of expediting the clean-up and getting people into emergency accommodation.
“My focus right now is to get this clean-up occurring, to get people into homes, to get money into the hands of families and businesses as quickly as possible,” he said.
There are 18 evacuation centres in the northern region and 800 people are being housed in free accommodation in hotels and motels.
Cabinet will also consider other temporary accommodation options including campervans, hotel rentals, Airbnbs, as well as longer-term investment in social and affordable housing, he says.
Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul is offering grants of up to $3000 to flood-affected Northern Rivers residents as well as opening a flood assistance centre in Lismore, Casino and Ballina so people can meet their immediate and critical needs.
© AAP 2022