Uninsured residents in flood-affected areas of New South Wales can apply for new cash payments, as recovery efforts continue after the state’s second major flooding event in a month.
The premier, Dominic Perrottet, announced the grants of up to $20,000 in Lismore on Monday, his first day back from parental leave.
Housing remains a key concern for residents and emergency services, with thousands of people still displaced and living in temporary accommodation and with friends or family five weeks after the initial flood event.
Perrottet also announced the opening of submissions for the independent inquiry into the flood response.
The deputy premier, Paul Toole, said the independent inquiry – due to report by the end of June – would consider planning and development in flood-prone areas, including the potential to relocate homes and residents.
“As we go forward we need to ensure we are not building these houses and businesses in these areas,” Toole said.
The state government’s Back Home cash scheme will be available for renters or owners whose homes and belongings were damaged or destroyed in the major flooding events if they were unable to claim insurance or disaster relief payments.
Eligible resident will receive up to $15,000 to repair and refit homes, with an extra $5,000 available per property for the replacement of essential household items for owner/occupiers.
Payments will be available to people living in the Lismore, Kyogle, Ballina, Byron, Hawkesbury, Clarence Valley, Richmond Valley and Tweed local government areas.
Money can be put towards whatever brings the home up to a habitable state, including repairs to services such as gas and electricity, rebuilding areas and the purchase of white goods.
It will only be available to people who have not already received the means-tested disaster relief grant.
Perrottet said nothing was off the table as the government strives to get people into safe housing.
“For those people who have properties or homes that can be repaired, this grant can be the cash that they need to make urgent repairs,” he said.
The treasurer, Matt Kean, said $1 billion had already been poured into flood recovery efforts by the state government.
Thousands of Australian defence force personnel remain in the northern rivers, where they are assisting State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service crews to restore access to areas cut off in last week’s deluge.
Evacuation orders have been lifted for Lismore but remain in place for other flood-affected areas across the state, including Coraki, Swan Bay and Cabbage Tree Island.
State police deputy commissioner and northern NSW flood recovery coordinator Mal Lanyon has urged displaced people to register with ServiceNSW so the government can get a handle on how many people still need help.
He told the ABC the second round flooding had hampered recovery efforts.
“But they are a strong community up here, they’ve got past this before,” Lanyon said.
The government and agency responses to the extreme weather and flooding events over the past month have come under scrutiny, with questions over why an evacuation order was lifted for Lismore and then reinstated just hours later.
The preparedness of those services, as well as the causes of, response to and recovery from the catastrophic flooding will be probed by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and Michael Fuller APM as part of the six-month independent inquiry.
Those affected by the flooding are being urged to make submissions to the investigation.
“This is your opportunity to tell your story, whether by making a submission online or attending a local session in person,” Perrottet said.
“Every submission will make a meaningful contribution to this important work to understand how we can better prepare for flooding, recover from this disaster and plan for the future.”
The inquiry will report back to the government on the reasons behind the flooding events and land use and planning by the end of June, with a second report into other issues due three months later.