Hills Shire Councillors have unanimously approved a suite of initiatives to help residents impacted by the recent floods to recover and rebuild their homes and lives.
The package includes waiving fees on Development Applications (DAs) in flood affected areas, as well as relinquishing application fees for sewage management systems.
In addition to this, Council will look to waive fees for work associated with flood clean-up, and prioritise DAs, construction certificates and other applications associated with flood support.
Council will also suspend application fees to help caravan park operators get back to business sooner. And where possible, Council will allow property owners to reasonably restore and repair their land to its pre-flood condition.
Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Peter Gangemi said he hoped this announcement would send a signal of support to those affected by this natural disaster.
“This is the second time in the past 12-months that The Hills Shire has been impacted by a major flood event,” Mayor Gangemi said.
“Flood levels are already exceeding last year’s heights, which is devastating for our community. It’s also an emotional and stressful time for those who have only just rebuilt.
“We won’t know the true extent of the damage until waters recede, but these measures are one way we can help residents through yet another difficult time,” he said.
Adding to the raft of initiatives, Council has activated the Castle Hill Showground, with the help of the Greater Sydney Local Land Services, as an emergency animal evacuation centre. So far 49 horses are seeking refuge, with room available for more animals and livestock.
SES, RFS, emergency services and volunteers have been working around the clock to stabilise homes, roads, carry out rescues and deliver supplies by boat to isolated properties in Wisemans Ferry.
Mayor Gangemi thanked everyone who has contributed to flood rescue and recovery efforts.
“We live in such a generous community and at our darkest time, residents, volunteers, community and church groups are raising money, sending food and medical supplies and helping those needing assistance,” he said.
“I can’t thank our SES, RFS, police, ambulance and emergency service teams enough for everything they’re doing. They’ve been working non-stop over a number of years to help residents through storms, fires and now two major floods. I’m in awe of their tenacity and drive to help others.
“Thank you to the Greater Sydney Local Land Services and RSPCA for their work at the Castle Hill Showground, and Castle Hill RSL for acting as an evacuation centre for residents.
“I’d also like to acknowledge and thank Council officers who have gone above and beyond to help in the emergency response and soon, the recovery efforts.”
Mayor Gangemi said the flood situation was far from over.
“Flood levels along some parts of the Hawkesbury River have yet to peak,” he said.
“Once the waters recede, Council and other agencies can assess the damage. When we know the true extent of the crisis, we can begin clean-up efforts and restore our road network as a priority.”
Mayor Gangemi said he expects the damage to exceed last year’s flood bill.
“Like last time, I’m sure our State and Federal Governments are ready to assist with resources to help with recovery efforts,” he said.
“Already, we’ve received financial assistance from the State Government to support our residents and business community, and for that, we are very grateful,” he added.