Cathy Adams

Budget 2017: After Cyclone Debbie, is help on the way?

THE catastrophic destruction delivered by Tropical Cyclone Debbie earlier this year is still yet to be fully calculated, with Federal Budget papers warning that the price of repairs and rebuilding across Queensland and New South Wales may still take a bite out of the nation's bottom line.

"The financial implications of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, which affected New South Wales and Queensland, has not yet been included in these estimates as costs have not yet been quantified," according to the Budget papers.

The enormity of the storm, which struck the east coast on March 28 caused so much disruption that Budget papers suggest it slowed national growth.

The Tropical Cyclone struck northern New South Wales and flooded Lismore after first ravaging and huge parts of inland Queensland.

Although almost $5 million has already been given to New South Wales by the Federal Government in 2016-17 under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements - following floods in July and bushfires in November - the dollar figure on damage by Cyclone Debbie is likely to dwarf that.

Beyond the impact of Cyclone Debbie, much of northern New South Wales rated little mention in the budget papers.

That is despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seeing the devastation of the town himself earlier this year.

At the time, and accompanied by Page MP Kevin Hogan, Mr Turnbull said he was committed to communities like Lismore and to "ensuring they have the support to recover".

He said in April that grants were already available to home owners and low-rate loans on offer for businesses and farmers.

"We are all in it together," he said.

"No substitute for seeing this here on the ground… seeing it first-hand and the impact, treasured possessions, all of life's work, all of the assets of the business flung out on to the pavement - that is gut-wrenching stuff.

He said on that visit that he would "look favourably" at increasing the height of Lismore's flood levee, although there was no mention of that in the Budget papers.



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