Rochester pleads for Government assistance
by Julie Moore
FOUR months after the devastating record floods, which hit Rochester and surrounding areas, the residents, businesses and the farming community remain without means to repair their damaged properties.
Federal Member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone said, “Households are struggling to even obtain quotes so that works can be undertaken.”
“The very best option is for local trades to undertake the works themselves, however there are now in Rochester alone 50 jobs on waiting lists well beyond the capacity of the local tradesmen.”
“Flood levy is currently being withheld by the Government due to red tape, while this stalemate continues we have families without cooking facilities and whose health is being affected by living in damp conditions.”
“It’s been months and we’ve got cooler weather coming on. Insurance hasn’t covered the costs of repairs and residents are trying to get businesses back up and running. These delays, after what has been such a generous response from our communities, are unacceptable.”
“The Federal Government is refusing to hand over $500 million of allocated flood levy funding to Victoria, because it says the Victorian Government is refusing to sign up to the National Partnership Agreement,” Sharman Stone said.
“This agreement apparently sets out strict and onerous bureaucratic requirements that the State Government say are overkill. Meanwhile there are houses which still do not have working kitchens or cooking facilities months after the flood. Fences are still down and livestock cannot be replaced.
“Given Exceptional Circumstances funding for over 1,000 families in the electorate of Murray stopped on 31st March, families urgently need assistance. Now many cannot pay for essential medicines and children are missing study opportunities.
“Half a billion dollars is owed to Victoria, we need these funds.”
Chair of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce as well as committee member of the flood recovery committee, Leigh Wilson has echoed Sharman’s outrage saying a lot of people are finding it very hard.
“On the domestic side, there are still a large number of people in Rochester, beyond 50, who are still unable to return to their homes. With a large number without floor coverings or heating.”
“While Government money has been made available for people on very low incomes through the Department of Human Services, typical families on reasonable incomes are facing $120,000 plus repair bills with no insurance and no funds to help them.”
Mr Wilson said, “Funds need to go into projects to ensure that we don’t suffer unemployment. A lot of businesses allied or otherwise, have gone and got the businesses up and running again waiting on the government funding and insurance funds to come in and businesses are about to go to the wall because we are all living out of each others pockets because the money is slow to move.”
“Rochester has had 270 homes flooded and 40 businesses which equates to 30% of all flooded properties in Victoria. I don’t expect our township to get $500 million dollars, even if $50 million was to come into this district to maintain employment and keep our farmers and industry going it could save our town. The biggest threat that we have is lack of cash flow and the potential of retrenching employees, which will disrupt the natural flow of our townships fabric.”
Mr Wilson said, “I am so personally upset that our Government is holding off this money because they want it spent their own way. They need to release the money to our community so we can best decide where the money is needed most so that we can get on with it.”
“It’s been an emotional experience for a lot of people in the town and the level of assistance from volunteers and the community has been outstanding, it really makes you proud to be an Australian. But, the money needs to come in and start flowing.”