The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, has congratulated Rochester CFA and SES for the news they will finally get a new, state-of-the-art combined operations complex.
But Mr Walsh says as overdue as the announcement is, he believes the people of Rochester could only be disappointed that the urgent funding needed to get the town’s economy back on its feet was ignored.
He says until regional Victoria’s flood-ravaged regions get access to all possible avenues of financial support, the future looks challenging, at best, and shaky at worst.
“In Rochester you only have to look at Major’s IGA and the damage it has suffered in 2022 compared with 2011,” Mr Walsh explained.
“I have been to the supermarket, I have heard from the family that this flood was, in their own words, “much worse” than 2011,” he says.
“The full extent of the cost to that business is still to be totalled, but there is no doubt we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars – and all they have been able to access in compensation under the Daniel Andrews approach is $5000.
“And that’s it, without activating the full extent of a natural disaster declaration, and full access to Canberra’s disaster recovery funding arrangements, no business in Rochy, or Kerang, or Murrabit or anyone else downstream yet to be hit by the surging Murray, will get any more and that’s not just plain stupid, it is heartbreakingly wrong, on so many levels.”
Mr Walsh says in NSW there is money for ongoing disaster response operations, reconstruction of public assets and, most importantly, loans for small business, farmers and non-profit groups, freight subsidies for primary producers and grants to not-for-profit operations.
But here in Victoria, he says all we have from Category B are disaster response, public asset reconstruction and loans for primary producers.
“Everyone else has been left in financial limbo by a government that was hoping an early Christmas present for the CFA/SES with one hand would distract locals from what was not happening with the other hand,” Mr Walsh says.
“Along with the Rochester community, I have been campaigning for a major overhaul of first responders there for years – just looking at my notes shows in just the past three years I have taken it to the floor of Parliament, I have gone through local media, my office team, who deal with the many calls and visits from locals on the subject, have used that information for me to send to everyone from the Premier to the heads of the CFA,” he says.
“If this Premier was serious about helping Rochester, he would have made his visit a double announcement – the new CFA/SES complex and the incredibly urgent and vital funding for the local economy.
“But as this Labor government slides ever deeper into its spiralling debt, it is doing everything possible to curtail spending.
“And that’s basically running up the white flag and surrendering – and that’s something never on the minds of Rochester locals.”