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No Premier we are not going OK, this is not enough. We need an honest climate change adaptation plan.

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
22 June 2022

Incoming Greens MP Sue Higginson met the Premier and Deputy Premier today as they walked around the devastated Lismore CBD.

It is really good that the Premier spent his first day back on the job here in Lismore. I thanked him sincerely for coming and not forgetting us.

The Premier has today announced grants of up to $20,000 for householders who are owners or renters who aren't insured, or who haven't claimed the Disaster Relief Grant.

Our communities have been absolutely devastated by a catastrophic weather event which was followed by another extreme weather event within a few weeks. People have lost their homes and their livelihoods. We need more than just a quick cash splash to have any hope of recovery.

We need guaranteed income support for all affected communities and for the Premier to stand up to his Liberal-National mates in the federal government to demand they match all funding.

For the sake of our future, it’s time to call this out for what it is: this is a climate emergency. Until we get serious about that nothing else really matters.

With the climate changing, extreme weather events like this are becoming more frequent and more disastrous. Climate resilience and adaptation needs to be a core component in building and rebuilding our communities so that we are prepared for the future.

If we have any hope of limiting climate catastrophe we must also begin rapidly decarbonising our economy including by phasing out coal and gas by 2030.

As his team and media entourage walked through what remains of our town I was very surprised to hear some of the reception. The general impression from the Premier is that things are apparently looking good, much better and that it’s excellent that the power had been returned to a couple of the premises.

We walked into the chemist, one of the only business premises that is trading in the CBD. It is makeshift, a couple of shelves in the front of the deeply damaged premise. The Premier spoke to a young man who looked exhausted. He then spoke to the owner of the Richmond Hotel which got completely smashed. He is struggling and not able to access the assistance he needs. The Premier explained that the grant he may be eligible for does not yet have the eligibility criteria available, he would call him later.

Then we stood at the door of the Bank Cafe and owner Brad explained even if we were gung-ho and wanted to jump straight back into business, the reality is there's no power, the buildings need extensive repairs, like multiple trades over an extended period of time".

Frankly, the whole exercise was heartbreaking because it's not looking good and it's not getting better and I do not think the Premier gets it.

I pleaded with the Premier that what we need is a fully funded community driven adaptation plan which addresses climate change, increasing extreme weather events and includes land swaps for people who are too traumatised to rebuild in the lowest parts of the floodplain.

We must never forget that lives were lost and hundreds of people just avoided death by clinging on to their roofs while their neighbours in tinnies rescued them.

We can’t just build back and wait to get smashed again. We need a whole of catchment and rehabilitation plan to retain rainfall, reduce run-off, lower flood heights and delay flood peaks. We need to assist those on the lower slopes in flood areas to raise their homes and buildings, for those in the lowest areas we must offer supported voluntary land swaps. The swapped low lands should be regenerated to nature, cultural, park, recreational, educational and marketplace lands.

For those who wish to stay in the lower areas and the CBD they must be supported to do so in the safest way through design and appropriate materials. The Premier should be instructing the States Architect to provide comprehensive advice on what to build with and the safest most flood resilient way to rebuild.

We need to properly focus on preparedness with all of the training and tools available to the community.

We need to look at making the water move through, rise and recede in the least harmful way possible, this may mean removing levees, embankments and other such unsafe barriers. The environment is a complex dynamic living thing with unmatchable strength and capacity. It is essential that our region is given the support and opportunity to rebuild and re-envision our blue-green wonderful region, including its heart, Lismore. All members of the community must be armed with the best available science, knowledge and awareness of the catchment’s dynamics and capacity.

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
22 June 2022


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