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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1550

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (13:02): In recent weeks we have seen a series of disasters around the country. There have been bushfires, floods, cyclonic conditions and tornadoes. When you see such extreme weather it illustrates all too clearly the frailty of man-made structures compared to the power of nature. Massive fires, record rainfall events and record flood events have been occurring across the continent. The hearts of the nation go out to those who have lost everything in these events, and the gratitude of the nation goes out to the emergency services personnel who put themselves in harm's way to protect and rescue others. Our gratitude goes to those many Australians who pitched in to lend a hand and help with the clean-up.

In my contribution today I would like to bring the attention of the House to the impact of the recent flood events on the people of the North Coast of New South Wales. On the North Coast we have been fortunate that the major population centres were largely spared. In Coffs Harbour the intensity of the rain was such that the inundation of low-lying areas by Coffs Creek was narrowly avoided. In the Clarence Valley we saw record flood levels, with the river rising rapidly. With the flood height reaching within two centimetres from the top of the levy in Grafton, disaster was very narrowly avoided. Downstream at Ulmarra, whilst the levy was breached and water flowed into the village, most houses and shops were spared from serious damage. At Maclean the levy banks managed to protect the town.

Most of the damage in the Lower Clarence occurred in rural areas and smaller villages not protected by a levy system. Canegrowers have been particularly hard hit. The sugar industry has seen the loss of three crops in recent years as a result of summer floods. Floods at this time are particularly devastating as they destroy young crops. Many cane farmers borrowed to plant and to now lose the third crop will be a devastating blow. Many have also lost soybean crops which are being grown in rotation with cane. It is not just the canegrowers; dairy farmers and graziers have also been adversely affected, as well as banana growers, who, whilst out of flood reach, have been impacted by the strong winds that accompanied the rain.

I wrote to the Prime Minister advising her of the situation in my electorate and requesting assistance. Primary producers are keen to see the provision of re-establishment grants to assist with the cost of replanting and to assist with the cost of flood damage. A category C assessment is underway and I am hopeful that we will get a satisfactory conclusion in this matter. It is important that those small businesses and farms that have lost so much in these floods are given some assistance to re-establish.

In conclusion, I would like to commend the work of our emergency services: the SES, the Rural Fire Service, police, fire and ambulance did an outstanding job, as well as the staff at the disaster recovery centre. I would particularly like to commend the work of volunteers who selflessly gave up their time to serve their communities. We as a community can take comfort in the knowledge that we have highly trained emergency service organisations who are able to respond to disasters when and where they may occur.