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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6983

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (19:55): I rise this evening to report to the House on some of the worst flooding on the mid-North Coast in over 30 years, which occurred last week. The community rallied on many fronts but was exposed in a number of areas that are worthy of some policy consideration as a consequence of the natural disaster. The estimated damage bill is significant. All five councils in the Lyne electorate were declared to be disaster areas. The estimated cost to tourism at this stage, from that week alone, is around $14 million. The wider impact at this stage is around $35 million. That is before we get into the various costs for infrastructure and insurance on personal property.

The major route north, the Pacific Highway, was cut for a substantial amount of time in Pacific Highway terms. For it to be cut for around three or four days is a significant cost to business and a significant impost to the 11,000 to 12,000 users on a daily basis. With the tourism hat on, I would welcome all visitors to the mid-North Coast. We are now open for business. The weather has been great over the last week, the waters have receded well and most businesses are back to normal. Any support from visitors would be welcome.

About 16,000 residents were isolated last week, and that has a whole range of complications and implications. Dairy farmers, for example, had to tip milk into nearby rivers and lost trade as a result. Medical supplies had to be choppered in to various locations. Hospital emergencies had to be dealt with. About 3,500 people could not return home for a significant amount of time, so evacuation centres were set up. The damage bill in Kempsey alone is around $8 million dollars. Fifty-two people were rescued and the SES responded to about 1,500 requests for help.

It is the worst flooding in the Manning district for 33 years and this is an opportunity to say a very big thankyou to all the volunteers who assisted last week—to the Oxley SES incident controller, Stephen Hart; the Oxley division boss, Peter Floyd; and the entire team that came together. Australia does many things well, but I do not think we do much better than emergency response, and here was yet another example of that.

Community stories are coming out which make you proud to be a mid-North Coast resident and an Australian. State of Origin night was basically when it all happened. I am sure that members of one of the oldest rugby league teams in Australia, the Wingham Tigers, were all settled in front of their TVs, probably cracking the first beer, when one of their mates rang another friend. The entire club went around to this guy's—Mick Bailey's—house. Rather than watch the football, which is the Oscars in rugby league terms, they assisted—over the hour and a half to two hours—a bloke who was in desperate need and needed a lot of stuff moved very quickly. The Wingham Tigers definitely showed a club and an Australian spirit and the story is one of those great stories of resilience that come out of natural disasters such as this. Businesses such as the Davis family business, which is the Kempsey McDonald's, contributed significantly to the Kempsey community. They managed to get the McDonald's organisation to contribute substantial funding to support the local community, so thank you to the Davis family and the many other businesses like them.

From a policy point of view, there are still some issues we need to deal with on the back of the Queensland floods. One of those is to create a standard definition of floods. We are already getting reports from various residents who thought they were doing the right thing—they thought they had flood insurance—but have found themselves exposed. That is potentially financial ruin for some. We need to address that as a parliament. The other is the outstanding issue of local councils being left with a huge local roads- and timber-bridge-building program that they cannot complete.

House adjourned at 20:00