More support needed for River Murray communities

The Opposition is calling on the State Government to provide further support to River Murray communities, including requesting the services of the Australian Defence Force, to better help with preparation, mitigation and communication as water levels continue to rise.

The current $51 million support package must also be expanded to include “Jobkeeper” style financial assistance to encourage businesses to remain open instead of closing, as well as grants to landholders who have taken proactive measures such as building levees or buying back-up power generators but are currently ineligible for support.

Leader of the Opposition David Speirs spent the past two days touring the Riverland and Murraylands to hear directly from affected communities.

“As I speak to people in river communities there is huge appreciation for the work being done but there are also residents and business owners who are falling through the cracks when it comes to support and communication,” Mr Speirs said.

“One of the biggest areas of concern is loss of power and emergency accommodation and the communication around this simply hasn’t been good enough.

“As we saw during the 2019/20 bushfires the defence force could be a significant help with prevention works as well as going door-to-door talking to people impacted.

“Those who have personally gone to great lengths to protect their properties by building levees or purchasing generators and businesses who stay open are also currently missing out on support.

“Expanding grant eligibility criteria as well as “Jobkeeper” style assistance would mean more people who need help will get support and local economies will be better off.

“It’s currently a one-size-fits-all approach but it’s clear that that size doesn’t fit many.”

Shadow Minister for Water Resources and the River Murray Nicola Centofanti, Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone and Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick, who joined David Speirs over the past two days, said they will continue to advocate on behalf of river communities.

“The initial assistance package is welcomed but unfortunately we are seeing too many people miss out either because they are ineligible or the process is too difficult for them,” Dr Centofanti said.

“Those that have taken proactive action to protect themselves should not be worse off.”

Mr Whetstone hosted a community forum on Tuesday night at Swan Reach with Opposition Leader David Speirs.

“River communities are anxious for what’s to come and while they welcome the Government’s support package, many who need help are finding out they are not eligible,” Mr Whetstone said.

“Access to housing, power and water are key concerns for local residents and businesses and I will continue to provide constructive advice on how the Government can better support people who need it.”

Mr Pederick said there needs to be more of a focus on prevention.

“Prevention is always better than the cure. We know the water is coming but if we put in more work now, hopefully it will soften the blow,” Mr Pederick said.

“It’s perverse that those who have been better prepared and business owners who choose to stay open and continue to provide local services and employ local people are not eligible for support.” 

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