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The levee is holding: McCormack -

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EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: And we cross now to Wagga and the Federal member for Riverina, Michael
McCormack.

Michael McCormack, thanks for joining us.

How is Wagga tonight, and are there still concerns about the strength of the levee banks?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR RIVERINA: Certainly Wagga's on a nervous wait tonight Emma,
and at first light tomorrow we will see the full extent of where the river is up to.

The fact that it is only going to be peaking at 10.6 metres is a huge relief for everybody -
certainly not a relief for those people in North Wagga who have lost homes, livestock, fencing,
businesses, the mop up operations there are going to be many months in the doing - but certainly a
sense of relief has overcome Wagga tonight, because it looks as though we've dodged a bullet.

EMMA ALBERICI: So what's the mood like among residents? How are they coping with the evacuations
and the fact that much of the city has closed down?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: Look, the community spirit is very high here, and we saw this morning where
several hundred people pitched in and helped doing sandbagging and helping people move furniture,
and I mean, as you've said in your early report it was a late-night evacuation, the call didn't
come until 9:30 last night and the army moved in, air force and navy, police - everybody was down
in the central business district, moving people on, encouraging and urging people to leave their
businesses and gather whatever they could from their homes, and to get out very quickly before 6am
this morning.

The city is in lockdown mode at the moment as far as the central business district is concerned.
There are police on every intersection vantage point making sure that the security is very tight.
And it's a real scene to go down the main street this afternoon and to see absolutely nobody there
from apart the odd police patrol, but certainly the city is relieved tonight but also very
apprehensive.

First light will reveal as to, you know, just the full extent of the water, and we're very hopeful
that the levee bank - which is said to be secure at the moment - we're very hopeful that it will
hold.

It was built in 1962, it's at a level of 10.7 metres, technically, to hold out the water. The river
peak is 10.6 metres, so we were 10 cm from disaster.

EMMA ALBERICI: So, you mention there the police presence - is that an indication of a fear of
looting?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: Look, certainly there were security issues that the police were very quick to
make sure that the area was properly patrolled - extra police were called in. There's been no sight
or any reports of looting.

Look, the camaraderie here is very high. It's a very resilient community, everybody has pitched in
and helped one another, and certainly there's been no report of looting.

But this isn't just about Wagga Wagga, this is Riverina-wide. Communities at Ungarie, Tumut,
Gundagai, Hanwood, Yoogali, Yenda, Barellan, Narrandera, all those communities - The Rock, Lockhart
- they have had evacuation orders also placed on them, and many, many homes have been lost in those
areas.

We had anywhere between 250 mm and 400 mm of rain fall over the weekend. That's a huge amount of
water - equivalent of 250,000 Olympic pools were released from Burrinjuck dam.

That coming down the river obviously created problems, but at this stage the levee is holding and
fingers crossed, and we'll say a few prayers tonight and hopefully that levee will hold, and then
we'll look into the future as to what we can do to heighten and strengthen the levee bank so that
in future we might not have to have evacuation orders, and we might not have to have these
emergency procedures put into place.

EMMA ALBERICI: The Prime Minister will be visiting there tomorrow. Will you be asking her for some
specific financial aid?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: Surely there needs to be some federal assistance, and I mean, federal
governments and state governments alike can't budget for these sorts of things.

The best budget ... the best way to ensure against this is to have a surplus, but certainly the
road damage - just local and state roads - is $500 million. That's half a billion dollars of road
works that is going to need to happen that hasn't been budgeted for. That's not even to mention the
homes, the properties, the fencing, the livestock and the public infrastructure that has been
damaged.

Certainly, the Prime Minister is well aware of the situation. I've been briefing her office, and
certainly I hope she doesn't come here empty-handed. There will need to be federal assistance.
These communities are going to need every bit of assistance to get their lives back in order, to
get their livelihoods up and running, and people will need to have that calm and reasoning sense
that we need help out here.

EMMA ALBERICI: OK, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much, Michael McCormack, for your time this
evening.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: Thanks, Emma.