WAGGA WAGGA ELECTORATE FLOOD DAMAGE
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE
(Wagga Wagga) [1.56 p.m.]: Beginning last Friday evening and continuing throughout the weekend, the Riverina and the South West Slopes suffered a natural disaster caused by heavy storms and the subsequent flow of water. The areas affected immediately were the shires of Tumut, Wagga Wagga, Lockhart and Tumbarumba. Those areas have suffered significant damage. Driving home from Sydney on Friday, I witnessed firsthand Adelong Creek: I have never seen water so angry as it passed underneath the Hume Highway. I went immediately to the emergency broadcast centre and discussed with people there what difficulties we faced. In fact, at that time 300 passengers were stranded with the XPT and I made arrangements, calling on the Government to get those people housed and fed until the crisis was over.
On Saturday morning, following my call for natural disaster assistance, I then visited Uranquinty, where 50 to 60 houses had been inundated by rising water that was not able to escape through the storm system. In fact, I witnessed one house with about 1.4 metres of water through it. There were cars still in their garages, full of water, and older people unable to escape the flood. In some cases the water entered the front of houses and flowed to the back, taking everything with it as it rose.
I went to The Rock, where the Emily Gardens aged care centre was evacuated. Thankfully, all the aged residents were safe and well, but the brand-new building suffered some damage from Burke Creek overflowing. With regard to the rest of the town of The Rock, more than 100 houses have had water come through them. I spoke to one lady, Vi, who has lived in The Rock for 87 years. In all the floods she has witnessed she has never before had water go through her house. The water that went through her house rose to about a metre, and one can imagine the damage that has been caused. Many houses had water rise through the floor, with residents unable to do anything about it. I also visited Adelong and Tarcutta, where I witnessed a scene of devastation. Adelong Creek broke its banks. Bales of hay and logs were rolling with the water, which destroyed everything in its path. It took the bridge with it then flowed out onto the street, causing enormous damage.
People did not have time to react, even to save possessions, because of the strength of the floodwater. It scene reminded me of a European flood now showing on YouTube. We have all witnessed these events on the news, but in this example the floodwaters, trees, logs and debris destroyed everything in their path. In the town of Lockhart about 60 homes were inundated. Those communities are now recovering as the storm waters and floodwaters recede. The city of Wagga Wagga was comparatively less affected by the rising floodwaters because it had time to prepare.
I want to put on record my personal thanks and those of the community to the Emergency Service personnel who dealt with this matter, James McTavish, John Gregory and others, along with all the staff who worked through the night. My thanks to ABC Regional Radio, whose employees staffed the radio station and broadcast information. The community organisations responded to the call. I have asked Rotary, Lions and others to roll up their sleeves to help with the clean-up and to give a hand to those who have been badly affected, particularly the elderly. I have called on the insurance companies to deal quickly and sympathetically with the claims that they will receive.
In the Tumut shire alone, the damage is between $10 million and $25 million. Bridges have been lost in the Tumut and Lockhart shires and in shires in the electorate of Albury, at Culcairn and Tumbarumba. The Manus Dam collapsed, and 80 metres of wall will need to be replaced. An enormous amount of work has to be done. I acknowledge the councils for their leadership in dealing with these matters, and in particular the general managers and mayors who worked with the community, visiting people in the days following the event and putting into place measures that will help them to get back on their feet. The Disaster Recovery Co-ordination Team has much work to do. I want to acknowledge all the organisations and the community who are continuing to help those who have been absolutely devastated by this flood.