By Dr Peter Gangemi - Mayor of The Hills Shire Council
It’s been both extraordinary and overwhelming to see the damage that the latest flood has caused across our region and further afar.
It’s difficult to see homes and belongings washed away, and so challenging for everyone who is working incredibly hard to Flood cleanup what the water didn’t take.
My heart just breaks for those who have lost everything – some for the second time. But I know our community remains resilient through yet another difficult time.
I know this to be true after I spoke with Adrian from the Wisemans Ferry Men’s Shed. Despite a big boulder landing on Adrian’s house and causing damage, he was more concerned with getting others back into the Men’s Shed, so they had a supportive environment – far away from the stress of rebuilding.
He was also focused on taking those who had been impacted by the floods over to the Flood Recovery Centre at The Retreat in Wisemans Ferry.
I visited the Centre on Thursday and it was incredible to see how attentive staff were to helping people get back on their feet. The Centre includes a range of support services and resources to help those who have been impacted, such as understanding what financial assistance is available, accommodation advice, help with replacing lost documents, mental health and wellbeing services, cleanup services and insurance and legal support.
We also have a Hills Shire Council Officer onsite, who will be able to talk through our suite of initiatives that were approved during a recent Council meeting. Some of the initiatives include waiving fees for Development Applications (DAs) in flood affected areas and where possible, Council will allow property owners to reasonably restore and repair their land to its pre-flood condition.
I urge people not to visit Wisemans Ferry Park. It will remain closed for some time as Council assesses the damage and begins cleanup works, which will include removing the remaining water, mud and debris that has washed ashore, including trees, mattresses, a water trough and even a deep fryer.
Flood clean up teams are working across impacted areas to provide residents, businesses and primary producers with a roadside pick-up service for the removal of flood waste. Please fill in the online form on the Local Emergency Management page on Council’s website (www.thehills.nsw.gov.au).
Your form will be forwarded to the Hawkesbury Emergency Operations Centre for actioning and you will be added to a list for the pick-up of flood waste. Alternatively, please contact Council on 02 9843 0555.
There has also been some questions asked about the ferry services. I can confirm that all four ferries at Sackville, Lower Portland, Webbs Creek and Wisemans Ferry are now running.
All roads are open, except River Road, which is closed at Blundells Swamp. Water still covers this section of road. Pages Wharf Road will need to undergo repairs to reconstruct it to working condition.
As of yesterday (Thursday), 11 horses remain at Castle Hill Showground, which was transformed into an animal evacuation centre during the floods. I would like to thank the Greater Sydney Local Land Services and the RSPCA for providing them with a dry and safe place to stay until flood waters recede.
Can I also thank our SES, RFS, Police, Defence, ambulance, emergency services, our volunteer groups and everyone else who has contributed to the flood efforts. It’s never easy working in these situations, but you’ve shown tremendous strength throughout this latest flood crisis, and have remained a pillar of support to those who’ve needed you the most.
This situation is far from over, but I know we will get through this.