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Hawkesbury Mayor disappointed Premier has turned down her invitation

Jun 14, 2023

Michael Sainsbury.

Hawkesbury City Council Mayor Sarah McMahon has slammed incoming New South Wales Premier Chris Minns for turning down an invitation to visit the region and “listen to locals” as remediation after three years of floods continues.

McMahon told The Hawkesbury Post in an interview last Friday that she wrote to Minns “succinctly listing all of the issues that are outstanding for flood recovery and flood resilience.” She continued the attack on the Mayor’s Facebook page June 13.

 “The premier wrote back to us (yesterday) and declined the invitation to come to the Hawkesbury to discuss that. He has referred us to his Emergency Services Minister. But I find it essentially disappointing that the premier has said he’s here for the whole state of New South Wales but  has said no to the most dangerous floodplain in the state. To me, that’s a very negative way to start your premiership.”

On her Facebook page she said she “welcomed” the meeting with Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib who is also the minister for Customer Service and Digital Government as well as Youth Services “and will of course attend.”

“I can only hope that the Minister then passes on our very serious concerns regarding floods and damaged infrastructure to the Premier, in light of Mr Minns making the decision that these issues were not important enough to be worthy of his time.” 

Her comments come in the wake of revelations that the former Liberal National Party government of Dominic Perrottet failed to put any projects in the Hawkesbury forward for the $400 million first round of the Federal government’s disaster ready program. Instead, 187 projects elsewhere in the state will be funded.”

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman has said: “It’s hard to believe that the previous state government couldn’t think of a single flood or bushfire project to seek funding on for the Hawkesbury. I don’t think we’ll ever know the reasons why – was it that they didn’t want to match the funding, was it that they had other priorities, was it that they had no specific plans for any flood-reduction or bushfire mitigation measures? I’m not going to waste time wondering and will instead work closely with the new NSW Government for future rounds.”

McMahon complained that Hawkesbury had been somewhat left behind compared to other local government areas in the Northern Rivers, such as Lismore and Ballina that have also been affected by floods during the La Nina weather cycle from 2020-2022.

“What does flood mitigation look like in the Hawkesbury?” McMahon asked. “In the Northern Rivers that looks like grant programs for raising houses and retrofitting existing houses to make them more flood resilient. Hawkesbury doesn’t have any of the benefits of those sorts of things. So, there’s a whole multitude of pieces of advocacy the council has been doing for probably over a month, I would say now.”

McMahon queried what the new government’s flood mitigation plan was although it was revealed last week that the previous Liberal-National government had kept secret potential major issues with Warragamba dam that it had known about since 2020. She said she had supported the $1.95 billion plan to raise the dam wall but the new Labor government has also revealed that there had been no funding in the budget for the plan.  Reports had also indicated that it only had token support from Perrottet, casting string doubts over whether it would have gone ahead had the LNP won the election. She said that the government had come to the table on some issues and been silent on others.

“I think that’s very unfair. And I think what we were asking for, really, was a conversation and to be included in the decision making, and that hasn’t eventuated,” she added.

The Premier’s office did not respond to a request for comment concerning McMahon’s statements.

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