Cyclone Seroja: Worker’s housing promised in biggest relief package in WA history

Phoebe Pin & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby and Senator Michaelia Cash have addressed the media about a record Commonwealth-State funding announcement for communities impacted by Cyclone Seroja. Pictured - Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby at Dumas House in Perth.
Camera IconEmergency Services Minister Reece Whitby and Senator Michaelia Cash have addressed the media about a record Commonwealth-State funding announcement for communities impacted by Cyclone Seroja. Pictured - Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby at Dumas House in Perth. Credit: - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian

More than three months on from cyclone Seroja, the Mid West has been given a record-breaking relief package to fund the mammoth task of rebuilding.

Local leaders have welcomed the $104.5 million package — which will support 16 local government areas affected by Seroja — but others have been disappointed by the lack of clarity on how the money will be spent.

Jointly funded by the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, the package includes grants for insured residents up to $20,000, for primary producers up to $25,000, and for small businesses up to $25,000.

Under the scheme, plans for a community welfare and outreach program have been funded as well as the clean-up and restoration of community, recreational, cultural and heritage assets, and clean-up and recovery support that was approved in principle in May.

In-principle support for help with establishing workers’ accommodation to enable rebuilding has been pledged, but no details have been revealed.

RELATED NEWS

WA Nationals leader Mia Davies welcomed the commitment but criticised the absence of information on how temporary housing options would be delivered.

“After 100 days to consider this I’d expect more than in-principle support for workers’ accommodation options,” she said.

“Providing accommodation so tradies and workers can get on with the job of rebuilding should be a priority for a Government that has a significant budget surplus.”

While the package addressed many concerns raised by the State Opposition, Ms Davies said the funding was “long overdue”.

“Families, businesses and the local council have been waiting for over 100 days, many of them still living in limbo with no appropriate housing or access to support,” she said.

When asked if the funding was “too little, too late” at a Kalgoorlie-Boulder press conference yesterday, Premier Mark McGowan said evaluating the extent of the damage had been a lengthy process.

“You have to assess what the cost of all the damage is and how extensive it is and actually work out what the total value of it is,” he said.

“We are now at the point we can make an announcement of the totality of the funding and the support that will be provided.”

Shire of Northampton chief executive Garry Keeffe said the relief package would be warmly received by the community, but hoped the details of the funding allocation would be revealed soon.

Shire of Perenjori president Chris King was also eager to learn the specifics of spending under the scheme and how households, business owners and farmers could access the support. Mr King said the prospect of a promising harvest had cushioned the blow of the cyclone, but residents were now anxious for repairs to begin.

“In terms of reconstruction and rebuild not much has taken place as yet, and I know a lot of that is down to insurance companies making sure all the processes have been followed properly,” he said.

Speaking in Perth yesterday, Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby could not say when residents could expect to move back into their repaired homes.

“New homes don’t pop up overnight ... if you are getting a new home built in Perth there is delays as well, so it will take time,” he said.

While clean-up efforts have been extensive across the Mid West, Durack MHR Melissa Price said “there is still a lot to do”.

“The record package developed to provide tailored recovery initiatives reflects my advocacy for these communities to ensure they are not forgotten, nor the extent of damage across a vast area of the Mid West, Gascoyne and Wheatbelt regions, never before been seen in Western Australia,” she said.

The relief package comes amid reports from locals of lengthy delays in getting their insurance sorted, and claims processed.

The Insurance Council of Australia’s latest figures reveal the cyclone insurance tally has hit $245m, from more than 8000 claims, with more expected.

Mark McGowan visits with Reece Whitby and Commissioner Chris Dawson.
Camera IconMark McGowan visits with Reece Whitby and Commissioner Chris Dawson. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails