Weather: Murray Watt says flood damage will cost billions of dollars

Home Politics Weather: Murray Watt says flood damage will cost billions of dollars
Weather: Murray Watt says flood damage will cost billions of dollars

Taxpayers will bear the brunt of billions of dollars worth of flood damage costs, with victims forced to dig into their own pockets as rivers across the country continue to threaten lives and homes.

Federal Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt said the $3bn provision in last month’s budget for flood payments and damage bills may not cover all damage.

The bill will ultimately be shared between governments – and taxpayers – at all levels, but individuals impacted by this year’s flood events are likely to have to dig into their own pockets.

“I think it’s realistic to think we’re looking at billions of dollars in damage and cost to the taxpayer in repairs,” Senator Watt told ABC Radio.

“It’s a bit too early to be able to put a precise figure on it, but even if you look at the disaster payments which we have provided to people so far, the bill is really racking up and that’s before we look at the immense cost of road and infrastructure repairs which lies ahead … The worst thing is that this isn’t over yet.

“I think everyone is unfortunately going to have to be putting their hands in their pockets.”

He said further costs would rack up, especially considering cyclone season has yet to start.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t got a lot of good news for people except for the fact that there is unlikely to be a lot of rain over the next couple of days, so that’s a good thing,” Senator Watt said.

Emergency services in NSW are facing the largest flood operation in the state’s history, as thousands of people are displaced and hundreds need rescuing from inundated communities.

The small town of Eugowra in the state’s Central West has all but been swept away due to flash flooding this week.

One woman has died.

In nearby Forbes, the community is experiencing the second flood event in two weeks, with the unfurling crisis the worst flooding in 70 years.

Record flood levels have been reached across the state, and more towns are preparing for floodwaters over the weekend.

Communities further down the Murray in South Australia are also bracing for flooding.

The government is working on a dedicated disaster workforce to assist during natural disasters and clean-up, given the temporary pressure placed on the defence force.

Two hundred ADF personnel have been tasked to help with the flood response in NSW.

“The reality is, all of this is putting a huge amount of pressure, whether it be on those state-based services or the ADF,” Senator Watt said.

“And that’s why in this budget, we committed over $30 million to a volunteer veteran organisation called Disaster Relief Australia to sort of top up the kind of services that are available for communities, particularly in that clean-up phase.”

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