Residents share horror stories from Upper Coopers Creek

THE full human cost of flooding and a roadslip in Upper Cooper's Creek has been revealed during public access time at a meeting of Byron Shire Council today.

Two residents spoke of the hardship - both physical and financial - suffered by those trapped in the valley since the Australia Day weekend storm devastated Upper Coopers Creek Rd.

It had resulted in a "slow, cancerous squeezing of all the financial life out of rate-paying residents", Dominick Reytiens told the councillors.

"This is not a 20% loss, this is a 100% loss," Mr Reytiens said.

He and Duncan Shipley-Smith were speaking to a motion proposed by Councillor Duncan Dey to seek Federal Government funding for rapid restoration of the road and care arrangements for the residents.

The motion, directed at Richmond MP Justine Elliot, was later passed.

Cr Dey has compiled a document telling the personal stories of 22 households affected.

One came from a 60-year-old woman who was flooded in for a week.

She said she had been "unable to cook, wash (myself or anything else), continue an income related project or pay her mortgage".

Many others are elderly or unwell, or have young families.

One resident told Cr Dey: "Weeks have passed since the disaster event occurred and still there remains a complete absence of on-ground material assistance to the community."

The State disaster compensation scheme overseen by the Department of Police and Emergency services was not available because much of what it covered was irrelevant to community members or did not cover such things as food spoilage, he said.

Furthermore, "it must be claimed within 48 hours of the disaster - a physical impossibility given our power and telephone services were cut for more than 110 hours after the severe storms".

The Byron LGA was declared a disaster area by both State and Federal government after the January 26-28 storms but Mayor Simon Richardson said the Federal government "hadn't gone for" efforts to gain help under the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

"That is traditionally done on a shire-wide basis. It can't look at individual streets or groups of people," he said, adding that the system was "flawed".

Ms Elliot, who was in the chamber as part of a Regional Development Australia presentation to council, said the Disaster Recovery Payment applied only to "very large-scale natural disasters".

She said she would take the council's motion back to Canberra, but she had already consulted with the Federal Attorney General, who had advised her the subject of Cr Dey's motion "didn't fit the criteria" for compensation.



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