By Angela Dorizas
Communities across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia have suffered from severe flooding, with 45 local government areas declared natural disaster zones.
The flood crisis has so far claimed the lives of four people from the Queensland towns of Oxford Downs and Rockhampton, and Parkes in NSW.
In Wagga Wagga, emergency service crews are preparing the town for the continued rise in flood water levels. The Murrumbidgee River is expected to peak at 9.7m later today.
Mayor of Wagga Wagga, Wayne Geale, said there had been significant damage to council buildings, including the council chambers, library and art gallery.
“The main council building was inundated last Thursday night and there is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage,” Cr Geale told Government News.
“Flood waters also got into the national art glass gallery. It also went right through our records area and our IT area. The gutters in the roof couldn’t cope so we part of the roof collapsed upstairs in our planning area.
“It’s a mess. It will certainly be hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.”
Cr Geale said council staff were working tirelessly to restore council services and help the SES prepare for further flooding.
“We have council staff working around the clock just to clean up the council chambers,” he said.
“We’ve had hundreds of council staff out there working on the levee banks.”
Cr Geale said the long-term recovery process would delay existing projects.
“Our projects will all be put back again because we have to go and fix-up roads we’ve already worked on twice before,” he said.
“We’ve just been hit over and over again.”
The natural disaster declaration announced by Attorney General Robert McClelland will give 45 communities across eastern Australia access to Commonwealth assistance, along with state government support.
“Many local communities in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia are dealing with the effects of severe weather and flooding,” Mr McClelland said today.
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said the crisis had wiped up to $500 million of the expected $3.2 billion value of the NSW winter crop.
“The state’s south and west have borne the brunt of recent severe weather, and our actions here are designed to help local families and businesses,” she said in Wagga Wagga on Monday.
“Because of the natural disaster declaration, more assistance is now available to people who have suffered property damage, including residents, farmers and business owners.”
Ms Keneally said councils in flood affected areas of NSW were eligible to receive government grants to meet the additional costs of emergency work and to restore essential services.
Grants were available for 100 per cent of eligible emergency works and 75 per cent of eligible restorations works up to $116,000. Grants were also made available to help councils restore roads and bridges.
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