‘It’s ridiculous’: Why has flood repair taken so long?
AS LISMORE City Council finally gets close to fixing all the roads that were damaged in the 2017 floods, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin has slammed the entire funding process, saying it took too long and put too much pressure on the council.
The council previously told The Northern Star it had applied for more than $30 million for urgent road repairs, such as landslips and culvert washouts, as well as heavy pothole patching and gravel maintenance right across the Lismore LGA.
Lismore City Council's acting infrastructure services director Darren Patch confirmed the council received about $1.9 million under the Commonwealth-State National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
"This was spread over a number of payments, with the final one made last year," Mr Patch said.
"We also received government funding to fix local roads and bridges that were damaged by the flood.
"About 95 per cent of this work has been completed, with the remainder expected to be completed by June this year."
Ms Saffin said in October last year, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Infrastructure Chris Gulaptis advised her "that most of outstanding funding payments were paid in July, 2019".
As part of a Northern Rivers tour this week, NSW Shadow Local Government Minister, Greg Warren, and Lismore MP Janelle Saffin met with Lismore City Council for "roundtable discussions" about issues of concern that were impacting community.
Mr Warren said it was "deeply disturbing" to hear it had taken so long to receive the natural disaster funding.
"It's simply unacceptable and inadequate," he said.
"Nearly three years on there are 87 businesses in Lismore that are not operating that were operating before the 2017 floods … that has a serious impact on any local economy.
"We need to get our priorities back in place and the government's priorities should be putting the funding back into the communities to get them back on their feet."
While Ms Saffin said it was good the council was no longer "carrying the post-flood damage alone", she echoed Mr Warren's concerns that the funding should have been delivered sooner.
"I keep saying: fund first, justify later," she said.
"Councils always need to justify what they spend, but without that funding, council have to do the work and then seek the money back ‒ that hasn't happened.
"The time frame is disgraceful ‒ because that's our money, our ratepayers' money - this is money we are not getting that we are entitled to post a disaster.
"It just needs to be cleaned up now, I don't want to see that happening after the bushfire disasters."
"It was millions the council sought alone on roads.
"Why does it take so long? It's ridiculous."
Both offices of The NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services Minister John Barilaro and NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott have been contacted for comment.