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NSW Breaking News

‘Opening up’ regions must be done safely

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Federal Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payments

‘Opening up’ regions must be done safely

By Janelle Saffin MP
State Member for Lismore

LAST month, I joined forces with four other NSW MPs representing the Northern Rivers to ask the NSW Government to protect our region from a predicted big influx of Sydneysiders when the State capital reaches the Government’s 70-per cent double vaccination target before we can.
Coming together with one voice for the communities we represent, The Nationals’ Chris Gulaptis (Clarence), Geoff Provest (Tweed) and Ben Franklin MLC, together with myself and The Greens’ Tamara Smith (Ballina) wrote to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro about our concerns. Both Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro have since resigned and are leaving politics.
We asked to adjust the roadmap to factor in regional and rural circumstances to prevent us being swamped by visitors prematurely, and in a win for us here, non-essential travel from Greater Sydney to the North Coast now will be restricted until a higher safety target of 80 per cent is reached.
It should be remembered that regional and rural New South Wales supported Sydney during its darkest hours this winter when the Government redirected some of our vaccine supply to metropolitan students sitting their HSC.
The vaccination rollout was prioritised to Sydney and from last week eligibility for all Covid-19 vaccines was opened up to all people over the age of 12. Vaccine availability is slowly improving here in our region, and not before time.
It is now our turn. We need more vaccines and more time. We have been left out of all considerations and should not have to fight so hard to get taken notice of. It took all MPs, even those in the Government, to come together to say ‘what about us here in regional and rural NSW?’ It is not all about Sydney.
I was part of a similar cross-party collaboration which secured a border zone between Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland, tested recently by some positive Covid-19 cases leaking into our region, and resultant snap lockdowns in Byron Shire and Tweed Shire LGAs (lifted at time of writing) and in Kyogle and Lismore City LGA, and the town of Casino (now in place until 11 October).
These lockdowns really hurt local businesses, families and local councils’ operations.
The filming of reality TV productions, with large casts and crews from Sydney, is inappropriate for our region at this time.
These production companies had a corporate social responsibility to Byron and Tweed shire residents to ensure that their employees adhered to permit restrictions under Covid-safe plans.
I also wrote to the Deputy Premier, in his then capacity as Minister for Regional NSW, requesting a detailed road map for opening up from Covid-19 restrictions that is more particularised to the circumstances and challenges being faced by local communities in regional areas.
The thinking behind having this road map is that hopefully it will provide much more clarity, and if implemented well, gradually replace the need to go in and out of lockdown.
However, we need to know that opening up will not mean open slather; putting our local government areas at any undue risk or disadvantage.
We need the NSW Government to be more transparent about how many residents of Greater Sydney are being issued with permits to travel to the North Coast, whether they are fully vaccinated and why they are coming.
How many others might have slipped through the net, exposing the regions to Covid outbreaks and clusters?
Subsequently, Mr Barilaro held several Zoom hook-ups with regional MPs and I believe he and other senior ministers were starting to listen to our concerns, which are shared by locally-based medical professionals and the broader community.
I pledged to work with the NSW Government to keep our communities safe and healthy, and for government financial support measures to reach struggling local businesses and individuals, particularly as the Federal Government soon will withdraw such support.

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The Northern Rivers Times Edition 164

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The Northern Rivers Times Edition 164 page 1

The Northern Rivers Times Edition 164

 

 

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2022 Floods

‘Don’t Forget Us!’ say Bungawalbyn, Woodburn and Coraki Residents.

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Protestor holding a sign at Woodburn Bridge

‘Don’t Forget Us!’ say Bungawalbyn, Woodburn and Coraki Residents.

 

By Kate Coxwell.

The Resilient Homes Program, which was created to provide assistance to home owners to restore and flood protect their homes and lives from future events has rejected over 5000 of the applicants out of just over 6000 in total, resulting in a rally which last weekend saw the Clarence electorate, Woodburn, Coraki, Bungawalbin, Broadwater, Wardell and surrounding rural townships came out in force, back to the bridge where National media had filmed them stranded, in the floods, nearly 18 months ago.

$750 million dollars of promised flood recovery funds seemingly disappeared the week prior, and over 5000 residents affected by floods were called by Service NSW staff to say “you are ineligible” as the NRRC also released new flood zone maps excluding the 2022 data and itself dissolved within days in the same week, the buck now stopping with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Authority.

The Resilient Homes Program, which was created to provide assistance to home owners to restore and flood protect their homes and lives from future events has rejected over 5000 of the applicants out of just over 6000 in total, resulting in a rally which last weekend saw the Clarence electorate, Woodburn, Coraki, Bungawalbin, Broadwater, Wardell and surrounding rural townships came out in force, back to the bridge where National media had filmed them stranded, in the floods, nearly 18 months ago.

Arguably, these communities were the hardest hit, with some residents being stranded for over 3 weeks with no access in or out, some stranded for 6 in the worst hit areas of Bungawalbyn, and no one other than their own community, coming to provide life saving medical and supply runs of food and water. This community says it is still feeling forgotten, as many homes, being classed as rural, have been made automatically ineligible, while some others, where water reached the ceiling fans, due to the new mapping, deemed ‘safe’.

With over 300 people attending the rally, standing across the span of the Woodburn Bridge, it was very well attended. Local MP’s Janelle Saffin (State for Lismore) and Richie Williamson (State for Clarence) as well as Mayor Robert Mustow.

Protestors rallying on the Woodburn bridge holding signs.

In an address to the crowd MP Richie Williamson said “This is a humanitarian crisis we are dealing with, the Premier agreed. We need to do better- the Government, the politicians-everyone in the decision-making chain needs to do better.”

Whilst MP Janelle Saffin said “You say you feel forgotten. I have not forgotten you. It was an inland tsunami. Despite not representing Woodburn, you are in my heart!”

Both MP’s and the Mayor were supportive of the Tranch 2 funding proposed, and had recently attended Sydney, speaking to Parliament as a group, about the needs of the community.

One member of the Coraki community recalled “how even in the second major 2022 flood, there was only 2 SES on that day, despite all warnings and extra support sent from around the State, we were forgotten, and the community who had been helping us with supplies, people who live among us who had also lost everything, they were the ones who came, with emergency medical supplies, food and assistance for those trapped again.”

Lyndall Murray from the Hands and Hearts Project, a project which has come together to do what the Government simply hasn’t, and that is to restore 100 homes, with their small team of 16 volunteers, said “The Hands and Hearts Project is doing what the Government won’t. The NRRC decision broke my heart.”

This time, the community is coming together to say “We count- Don’t Forget us!” and has formed a petition, asking for all who care about them to sign it. The petition can be found here: www.dontforgetus.com.au

 

To see more news on the 2022 floods, please see our other recent posts.

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