Carr declares disaster zone


IN 2001, Laurel Lindsay was on the front page of The Northern Star as she waded through receding floodwaters back to her Magellan Street dress shop in Lismore.

"I was gritting my teeth because I knew what I would find," she said.

"Everything coated with brown mud, and the rest."

Yesterday, however, she was all smiles during a pop-in visit from NSW Premier Bob Carr, who inspected the new flood levee which saved the CBD.

But he still declared Lismore a natural disaster zone, pledging financial assistance.

Insurers have estimated the damage bill from the floods in northern NSW and southern Queensland at $6 million.

People living in the local government areas of Lismore, Byron, Tweed, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Kyogle will be eligible for disaster assistance measures.

Flood victims will be eligible for low-interest loans of up to $130,000 for businesses and farmers, and subsidies of up to $15,000 for farmers to cover the cost of transporting livestock and fodder.

Councils will be able to access State Government grants to help rebuild infrastructure such as roads and parks, while community groups, churches and non-profit organisations will get financial assistance to rebuild damaged facilities.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Laurel at the House of Horton yesterday, despite packing up her entire shop on Thursday.

"Personally I felt we weren't going to get flooded," she said.

"I thought, 'We're doing this for nothing'.

"But if the water had overtopped the levee we would have instantly been in a metre of water, with no chance of getting anything out."

It was in sharp contrast to the similar-sized 2001 flood, when she had to pack up in almost a metre of water.

Manager of Lismore Unlimited Opportunities, Amber Hall, said the $19-million flood levee had saved the city millions of dollars.

She said labour clean-up costs alone would have reached around $1 million.

The cost of three days of lost trading would have run into several million, not to mention loss of stock and damage, she said.

Meanwhile, across town at the Northern Rivers Hotel, licensee Keith Duggan estimated he had $30,000 damage.

However, he also had plenty to smile about as the neighbourhood rallied to help, with people turning up at 4am on Thursday to move stock from the bottle shop.

"Without the alcohol gone it would have been dire," he said. "If the packaged beer gets wet it's a nightmare."

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