PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council has collected more than 32,000 tonnes of flood waste since the region was inundated in March with the region now facing an estimated repair bill upwards of $70 million.
Roads, bridges, reserves and key council infrastructure have been impacted, in some areas destroyed.
Council provided an update on the flood recovery and clean up at its June 16 meeting.
The local government area was declared a natural disaster zone after unprecedented flood and storm activity caused large scale damage and widespread property evacuations.
Council recognises that the impact on the community has been great and the flood recovery will be ongoing for a significant period of time. That recovery comes off the back of many difficult months following the 2019 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council has spent approximately $8 million on emergency and recovery works with an additional $1.7 million in tipping fees incurred in association with the transfer of debris to its waste management facilities.
Current assessments of future restoration works indicate costs to council will be upwards of $70 million.
Mayor Peta PInson said council, and the community, has an "enormous way to go" in relation to the flood clean up.
"If anyone feels that our fields and parks and foreshores are looking great, that may be so, but the devastation of the flood will be with us for a very long time," Cr Pinson said.
The following outlines some of the major impacts and associated cost estimates:
- Immediate reconstruction costs of infrastructure assets are estimated to be $19.5m across approximately 80 council assets
- Subsequent restoration/replacement of approximately 40 infrastructure assets is estimated to cost a further $31.8m with a two year estimated repair works program
- There are 13 landslips and coastal erosion restoration projects with $2.6m repair bill
- Replacement of boardwalks has been estimated to cost $4m
- Repair/replacement of marine assets $2m
- Repair and replacement of public open space assets across 32 projects is estimated to cost $2.1m, with Rocks Ferry requiring an additional $10m
Council has also extended support to residents facing financial hardship. This includes providing more than $11,000 worth of complimentary access to Charles Sturt University's Innovation Hub for local businesses and individuals directly impacted by floods.
Council has also waived $555,000 in tipping fees for the community.
From March 24, council established Flood Outreach Centres in Port Macquarie and Laurieton to ensure that impacted community members could access the support and advice they needed.
Council has also completed over 29 mobile outreach sessions across the LGA including Wauchope, Comboyne, Telegraph point, North Shore, Byabarra, Pappinbarra, Beechwood, Long Flat, Rollands Plains. The number of visitors to the Flood Outreach Centres has exceeded 4800 visits.
These centres were supported by 12 community flood meetings to provide updates on council's flood response and to hear from the community about their needs and issues with the recovery effort. Over 290 residents attended these meetings.
At its June meeting, council agreed to:
- Continue to waive relevant council fees and charges associated with building/construction, in relation to owners of properties and local businesses.
- Continue to waive fees to alter sewerage management facilities under section 68.
- Continue to waive council tipping fees (not including State Government levies) for local government area residents and businesses' flood damaged waste, including building materials, furniture, fittings, personal items at Council's waste transfer stations until December 31.
- Continue to waive council fees (not including State Government levies) for bulk kerbside collection of flood damaged waste for local government area residents until December 31.
- Make application to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for an extension to the waste levy exemption for flood damaged waste arising from the March 2021 Flood and Storm Emergency to December 31.
Council noted that if the state government did not continue to waive its waste levy beyond the end of June, under legislation it would still apply as a cost.
Cr Pinson and council CEO Dr Clare Allen met last week with Oxley MP Melinda Pavey and Lyne MP Dr David Gillespie to discuss the long-term flood impacts on residents in Wauchope and the hinterland. It was recommended by the mayor that their support be formally noted.
"Rocks Ferry, and the road down to it, was a particularly high level part of our conversation," Cr Pinson said.
"The area of Rocks Ferry is seen as Wauchope's foreshore. Some of that discussion was that there are assets we need to build back better, rather than build back 'as was'.
"It was made clear that their ongoing support is very much required, as is the support of the Member for Port Macquarie (Leslie Williams) and Pat Conaghan the federal member for Cowper.
"We need to stay in contact with all our members to seek their advocacy and support.
"As more damage assessment data comes in, we are working closely with our state and federal elected representatives to identify how best to meet the needs of our community. Working together will ensure we secure funding to deliver the remedial work needed after the flood and other significant road projects."
Cr Geoff Hawkins said it was important for council to publicly acknowledge discussions with all state and federal MPs in the electorates of Port Macquarie, Oxley, Lyne and Cowper in the region's flood recovery.
The state and federal governments have announced a number of assistance measures. Round 3 of the Fixing Local Roads Program will see $500 million available to local councils.
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