Labor proposes flood recovery package, tax waivers
NSW Labor is calling for payroll tax to be waived for 12 months and two one-off infrastructure assistance funds established to help business and local councils recover from the devastating floods.
The call was included in a comprehensive flood recovery package released by NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley today, in what Labor is claiming to be a blueprint for the Berejiklian Government to follow to help the community get back on its feet.
The blueprint further calls for an expansion of the existing housing and business flood raising and purchasing plan for those in flood-prone areas.
The package follows ongoing discussions and meetings with political, community and business leaders since Mr Foley visited the North Coast almost two weeks ago.
The blueprint is patterned on a similar recovery package introduced by the former Carr Government in July 1997 following the Thredbo landslip disaster.
"The Berejiklian and Turnbull governments are being criticised for their failure to appropriately respond to the massive flooding on the North Coast," Mr Foley said.
"The plan is also a template for future responses to natural disasters - depending on the severity - as they may occur after March 2019."
The package was developed after a meeting with Murwillumbah and Lismore businesses affected by the recent floods. It was chaired by Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot and attended by Mr Foley and Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord on April 20.
NSW Labor - in conjunction with Federal, State and local government colleagues - has put forward an 11-point flood impact recovery package for the North Coast - particularly, the communities of Murwillumbah and Lismore.
The plan includes:
- A waiving of State Government's payroll tax for companies in the region for 12 months until April 2018 - which would have been collected by the Office of State Revenue;
- A special one-off specific and targeted fund up to $100 million to assist North Coast local councils with roads, bridges and infrastructure repair directly related to the flood;
- A special one-off specific and targeted major and significant funding package up to $50 million to assist small, medium and large businesses including primary producers to cover cash flow shortfalls due to stock losses and damaged plant equipment as well as re-building;
- Work with the Federal Government and State Government to ensure that the joint Australian Government-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) Category C payment is made upon approval - recognising they do not have funds to pay for stock or equipment until they have a cash flow;
- Extend the disaster recovery payments to affected areas within the Byron Shire and extend Category C to other areas of the Tweed Shire including Tumbulgum, Burringbar, Stokers Siding, Mooball, and Crabbes Creek;
- Increase the funding available for floodplain management grants within the Office of Environment and Heritage from $31 million to $50 million to assist with a range of measures to improve floodplain risk for local government and around homes and businesses -whereby the State Government provides $2 for every $1 spent on flood mitigation measures; (This includes voluntary house purchasing and voluntary house raising (VHR). We propose that it be extended to some businesses who wish to relocate or VHR like those in Lismore and Murwillumbah as discussed with the Tweed Shire Council general manager.);
- A one-off $2.5 million special fund to construct and/or adapt crisis accommodation for homeless in the region - in conjunction with local homeless service providers;
- Provide $2 million in funding to Destination NSW to fund a one-off targeted tourism promotion to attract visitors to continue the economic flow to the region to remind them that they have recovered from the floods;
- Reimbursement for individuals and families for payments to electricians required prior to Essential Energy reconnecting power;
- Independent external inquiry into the Lismore and Murwillumbah levees in conjunction with local government, emergency workers and the local community - as to whether they should be increased; redirected or relocated; and
- One-off $800,000 assistance to SES branch to update its data base and contacts for businesses and families in flood prone areas as a number of businesses were unable to be contacted during the emergency.
Mr Foley said thet package would require co-operation and agreement between all three levels of government - local, State and Federal.
"The impact has been felt across the whole community from individuals to families to not-for-profit community groups to small businesses and medium to large-sized businesses as well as local government and primary producers, tourism and hospitality sectors," he said.
"While Labor recognises that tourism is a key industry on the North Coast, it also acknowledges that there are strong business communities in Lismore and Murwillumbah.
"This includes transport, accounting, earthmoving and food manufacturing companies. They have suffered significant losses in destroyed stock, plant, equipment and vehicles.
"In Murwillumbah alone, these tier one businesses employ more than 500 employees and their removal from the economy would have a significant economic impact through the flow-on and multiplier effect. In Murwillumbah, these jobs amount to almost six per cent of the entire population of 9000."
Mr Foley said this was about securing the future of businesses and their communities on the North Coast - especially Lismore and Murwillumbah.
Richmond MP Justine Elliot welcomed the announcement.
"I highly commend and thank NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley for this major announcement in response to the impact of the worst flood event ever on the North Coast," Mrs Elliot said.
"Luke came to the North Coast and listened to our community. He met with community leaders, emergency responders, local business and council representatives.
"Luke heard firsthand how our community, our local businesses and so many individuals were devastated by this flood. He inspected local businesses and heard many stories about the massive challenges we now face.
"As a result of that visit, Luke has responded with a comprehensive Flood Package to assist our region. I thank him wholeheartedly for listening and acting."