: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Page MP Janelle Saffin pictured with welder John Annecca at Bordin Bros.
: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Page MP Janelle Saffin pictured with welder John Annecca at Bordin Bros.

Flood of relief as PM pays a visit

By Alex Easton alex.easton@northernstar.com.au A LIGHTNING visit to the Northern Rivers by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ended yesterday with a pledge of more flood relief for local farmers and businesses.

Mr Rudd and NSW Premier Morris Iemma yesterday announced a joint package offering one-off grants of $5000 each to farmers and small businesses hurt by the floods, along with a $600,000 assistance package for the region’s tourism industry.

The full value of the package was not known, with a spokeswoman for Mr Rudd saying the grants would be distributed according to need.

The announcement, which mirrors an expanded package offered to the Hunter region after a flood there last year, came after Mr Rudd flew into the region to visit a business and a dairy farm at Kyogle with Federal Agricul ture Minister Tony Burke and Page MP Janelle Saffin.

Mr Rudd visited metal fabrication business Bordin Bros Stock Equipment and a dairy farm owned by the Sneath family.

In a chat that allowed Mr Rudd, who grew up on a dairy farm in Queensland, to show off his knowledge of all things dairy, Michael Sneath said the family had been spared serious damage.

However, Mr Sneath said the family still lost more than $90,000 in stock, stock feed and labour cleaning up mud and fixing machinery that had been immersed in flood water.

Before leaving Kyogle, Mr Rudd said he would discuss offering more help to the region at a meeting with Mr Iemma that afternoon.

However, he and Mr Burke both said there were limits to what the government could do.

“This doesn’t solve all the problems,” Mr Rudd said. “Mother nature can be cruel.”

Mr Burke said the visit showed ‘the damage of a flood is not evident at the high-water mark’.

Within hours, Mr Rudd and Mr Iemma were announcing the expanded package.

“After meeting with local business owners and farmers this morning, it is plain that the impact of the floods on the Northern Rivers district has been very significant,” Mr Rudd said in a joint statement.

“There is still much work to do over the coming months. However, we hope this assistance today will provide a helping hand for these communities to fully recover.”

Mr Iemma said the package showed how the state and the Commonwealth could work together.

Page MP Janelle Saffin, who has been pushing for the expanded package, said Mr Rudd’s visit yesterday morning was ‘critical’ to getting the package.

“Kevin coming here gave national attention to a local issue and he was able to then say that to the Premier, ‘I have been there and seen it’,” she said.

Asked if the State Government would have agreed to the grants without Mr Rudd’s visit, Ms Saffin said: “I’m pleased that the Prime Minister and the Premier have made this joint announcement.”

However, Ms Saffin said NSW had come up with the framework for the tourism funding package itself, putting up $300,000 and asking the Commonwealth to match it.

It was not yet known how the tourism funding would be structured, but Ms Saffin said it would be important to the local industry, which had lost the better part of its peak season to the flood and rain.

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