Politicians in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) have called for a tailor-made disaster funding system to deal with the flood crisis as current structures have failed to meet the expectations of the state’s flood-stricken communities.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the current structure for distributing relief funds had not functioned the way it should, and there were many instances of the federal government not delivering support to impacted communities.
Kean’s remarks come after the federal government added the Tweed Shire, Ballina, Byron and Kyogle areas to the list of regions receiving extra funding on March 17.
“The current framework for getting disaster relief money out the door obviously hasn’t worked in this instance,” the state treasurer said on March 17.
“There are a number of areas where it’s been very successful, but we know some communities … have been left out of the existing framework,” he said.
Kean said NSW needed a system that was specifically made to meet the needs of communities.
The cost of the flood crisis was anticipated to go far above the $5 billion (US$3.7 billion) bill left by the 2019-20 bushfire disaster to the NSW government, he said.
Kean also mentioned that the government had already allocated $1 billion in flood funding, and affected areas could now apply for further support.
Furthermore, the federal government announced on March 17 that residents in the councils of Tweed, Byron, Kyogle and Ballina would be able to receive two extra disaster recovery payments.
Minister for Emergency Management Bridget McKenzie said the federal government was carrying out the additional support in the fastest possible time after it figured out the full scale of the catastrophe.
Many media outlets reported on March 17 that the flood relief package, which has a value of up to $1 billion and derives from the joint funds of the NSW and federal governments, was delayed due to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s tour of Western Australia.
The prime minister refuted the allegations, and said that he got the proposal from NSW on the night of March 15 and then had a discussion with the attorney-general and the cabinet’s national security committee to work through the details.
“That is the normal process, and as I indicated to the premier we’ll be turning that around as quickly as possible,” Morrison said.
Earlier, NSW Coalition MP Catherine Cusack said that she would resign from the party in protest of the federal government allocating disaster payments according to the Coalition’s political purposes.
In particular, the government initially distributed funds to the Lismore, Clarence Valley and Richmond Valley areas, which are the Coalition seats. However, Labor-held councils Byron, Ballina and Tweed Shires did not get the share.
NSW Nationals member of the Legislative Assembly Geoff Provest, who represents the Tweed electorate, said he no longer believed in the leadership ability of the prime minister.
Meanwhile, the federal government announced on March 17 that further funding worth $9 million was available for northern NSW and Queensland.
“The immediate financial and material losses associated with the floods has significantly impacted many people’s ability to access food and clothing, and to pay bills and manage debt,” Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said in a statement.