Clean up begins for flood-affected residents

NOW that floodwaters have started to recede across the Richmond Valley, Council will continue to work closely with local flood-affected communities and government agencies to provide the support needed for clean up and rebuilding, as services now move towards a recovery phase.

A coordinated clean-up effort is underway across the Valley, which includes street cleaning, free kerbside pick ups, skip bins for shopping precincts, and the waiving of landfill fees for flood-affected goods. We would like to acknowledge our local contractors who jumped straight into action to assist us with the clean up.

Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald thanked the agencies and support services involved in what has been the largest scale emergency response the Richmond Valley has ever experienced.

Mr Macdonald said the emergency response to this disaster had been a massive multi-agency effort, including NSW Police, the RFS, SES, Fire and Rescue NSW, VRA, NSW Ambulance, Australian Defence Force and Richmond Valley Council.

He said the task ahead was a huge one, but significant achievements to restore vital infrastructure had already been made, including to key transport routes.

“Council will work with Federal and State agencies to clean up flood-damaged properties, and provide support to those affected,” Mr Macdonald said.

“I acknowledged the significant and coordinated multi-agency emergency response deployed over the past week to assist our communities led by the NSW Police.

“All emergency services, Council, government support agencies, many volunteer groups and non-government organisations came together, around the clock, to help our community during this tough time.

“It’s a long haul ahead, as the recovery process has only just started, so we need to stay on task for our communities who need us.”

Mr Macdonald said as communities recovered, various types of assistance remained available. He urged those affected by flood to seek assistance from relevant agencies tasked to assist the recovery.

He said Council’s website had up-to-date information and contact details for disaster welfare assistance, insurance, disaster relief for farmers, housing assistance and mental health care, and more.

“A one-stop Recovery Centre will be set up in the Casino Community and Cultural Centre once there is better access for the staff needed to operate these centres,” Mr Macdonald said.

“The aim is to have it open mid next week, with another to be set up in Evans Head next week.

“We will work closely with the Resilience NSW team and support agencies to assess whether these centres may need to move into Coraki, Woodburn and/or Broadwater as the waters recede and the scale of impact and the community’s needs becomes clear in these communities.”

Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow said the primary focus would remain on supporting residents’ safety and well-being as the significant clean-up process began.

Cr Mustow said the damage from this unprecedented flood was a devastating loss for the community, and it would take an enormous amount of effort, commitment and support for those affected to rebuild their lives.

He said Council and the wider community would be there every step of the way to support the individuals and families impacted by this disaster.

“This is a very emotional time for so many in our community,” Cr Mustow said.

“Our strength and resilience, characteristics which have been sorely tested over the past few years, are again shining through as we begin the mammoth clean-up and recovery effort.

“It is a huge task, but the way the community has pulled together over the past week to support one another has been inspirational.

“I would like to thank our SES and RFS members, local police and emergency service personnel, volunteers and community organisations and Council staff for their hard work and assistance in protecting and supporting our local communities.”

Mr Macdonald said he was pleased Council had received a Natural Disaster Declaration from the Australian and NSW governments following the damaging floods, as it would pave the way for extensive repair works on the Valley’s road network.

He said with so much damage, it was expected the full restoration program from this disaster may take years.

Our initial focus is to keep our water supplies operational, then assess the damage to our sewerage network, pump stations and treatment plants. Fixing these systems will be a massive challenge,” Mr Macdonald said.

“Our aim is to eventually bring all damaged roads, drains and stormwater systems back to the condition they were in prior to the flood event, given the scale of the damage this will take months and in some cases more than a year, due to landslides and bridge damage.

“This will require a supreme effort and we are asking the community for patience as our committed Richmond Valley Council team carries out this work with the support of our local contractors and other government agencies.”

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