In a move that will please many people affected by the devastating floods in the Central West last year, the NSW Government has announced that $50 million of the $150 million Community Restoration Flood Fund has been earmarked for the area.
Announced merely weeks after The Land featured a story on a Eugowra resident's uncertainty around flood recovery for the Cabonne Shire, the $50 million government commitment is good news for residents but it is still unclear how much of that money will go to housing repairs, raising and retrofits.
In the floods of November 13 and 14, 2022, 426 properties across Cabonne were impacted by the flood event and mayor of the shire, Kevin Beatty said there is still uncertainty for those residents.
"More than 100 residents across Cabonne are currently living in temporary housing, through either Pods on Private Property or the Caravans at Home programs, and many are dealing with ongoing uncertainty around insurance payouts and claims," he said.
"Many property owners also do not have any insurance at all.
"Our communities have been asking for some certainty around support to rebuild.
"They have observed support delivered to the Northern Rivers around a Resilient Housing Package and have been seeking confirmation from the Government as to whether a similar program would be provided for those impacted by the Central West floods.
"Despite a lack of details around how the funding might be delivered, at least we now know that there will be some funding to support house-raising and house-retrofits."
A spokesperson for the NSW Reconstruction Authority said it will work closely with local community leaders to prioritise the $50 million in funding.
"Regarding housing programs including raises and retrofits, the NSW Reconstruction Authority will work with councils and community leaders to determine how the program will be developed," they said.
"Once the raising and retrofit program has been finalised, the approach will be shared with communities to enable works to get underway."
The Government said the funding package will help to boost the community-led recovery of the Central West.
The commitment will be an initial down payment towards measures including Priority Disaster Adaptation Plans for the Central West so communities are better prepared, repair and replacement of critical community assets and improving the resilience of public infrastructure, including bridges and roads, and assistance with housing programs, with work to be further developed with councils and community leaders.
Mr Beatty said the funding will hopefully enable displaced community members to start to make some decisions around how to rebuild their lives.
"We are yet to see the full detail of the announcement but understand the housing program is one aspect of the funding," he said.
"This is welcome news for our communities. However, the devil is in the details.
"Until there is more information on how this funding will be delivered to impacted community members, it is difficult for them to be able to fully understand the benefits.
"In June 2023, council released a Cabonne Recovery Plan which outlined the actions, identified by the community, to support recovery.
"This plan, which was developed in consultation with the community, included a resilient housing package, and a community assets program.
"I am so pleased to see both key elements included in this announcement.
"Council and the community have been actively lobbying government for support since the floods hit on November 13 and 14, 2022.
"This is one big step forward in supporting our recovery, but we have many more steps to take.
"We will need more support to build back. I look forward to working with the relevant departments and ministers on the details around this funding, and how this might directly support our communities.
"Hopefully, the Federal Government is able to support this announcement with additional funding support for our communities."
It was a sentiment matched by Member for Orange Phil Donato who also called on the Federal Government to match the state funding.
"This additional injection from the Community Restoration Flood Fund is a welcome start on the wide range of recovery and reconstruction work that still needs to be done across the region," he said.
"Everyone who experienced the 2022 floods and is still dealing with the after-effects day in and day out understands we have a long road ahead of us and additional support will be required."
The NSW Government said the announcement adds to the more than $42 million in grants and subsidies paid by it and the Commonwealth to individuals, households, small businesses and primary producers across the Central West impacted by last year's floods.
Other work undertaken to support local communities, begun by the previous state government, includes 15 recovery assistance points set-up across the Central West, $40 million Pods on Private Property Program and $19 million At-Home Caravan program, Community Recovery Officers for Cabonne, Forbes and Wentworth, and community projects such as the rebuild of Eugowra's pre-school with Cabonne Shire Council.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said the 2022 floods exposed several ongoing risks across the state due to changing climate and long-standing land uses.
"The NSW Government recognises that recovery is not a short-term fix and requires evidence-based planning and community leadership," he said.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said the Government acknowledged there are details to be worked through with the community.
"We appreciate that what people want most is to get back into their homes and on with their lives and we are committed to helping them do just that," he said.
"This is not about a simple fix, it's a concerted effort making sure that communities in the Central West can build back stronger.
"This is a significant step forward in making sure communities are better prepared for future floods and will allow community leaders to shape how recovery proceeds in the Central West."
The Government was asked how much of the $50 million will be directed towards housing programs, if there was a provision for people who just needed repairs to their house, and do Central West residents need to have the work completed before applying for funding, questions they failed to answer.
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