15 April 2024

Illawarra MP talks flood support – and what must happen to manage future disasters

| Zoe Cartwright
Start the conversation
politician and SES members

Keira MP Ryan Park meets emergency services staff at the flood Recovery Assistance Point in Thirroul. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

Flood-affected Illawarra residents must reach out for help, Keira MP Ryan Park says.

The Minister for the Illawarra and the South Coast spoke outside the Recovery Assistance Point (RAP) at Thirroul Library on Friday.

He said the two RAPs were designed to make it as easy as possible for flood victims to access the help they need to recover.

“The purpose of this centre and the one at Warrawong is so people can access help as simply and easily as possible,” he said.

“We know, because of past events, the faster we get in here and get support on the ground, the faster people can recover.

“For people to get back on their feet, they will need multiple layers of support – no-one can solve this on their own.

“Reach out, come to the centre, it will also be operational next week. You don’t have to do this alone. We are with you every single step of the way.”

READ ALSO Need help after the floods? Here’s a guide to support in the Illawarra

Minister Park said about 70 people had accessed the RAPs since they opened on Thursday.

He praised the community for its resilience and generosity in the face of disaster, but urged anyone struggling not to do so alone.

“The sun is out but the pain for many people in our community is still there,” he said.

“This flood has been absolutely devastating and has hit vulnerable people the hardest.

“What we do well in this community is support one another and that was evident over the weekend.

“People often try to do things on their own, but we don’t want people to feel isolated.

“The cost of this clean-up is in the millions. If you have any doubts about whether your home is habitable, get in touch with Service NSW straight away so we can begin to arrange crisis accommodation.

“Access the mental health line, access RAPs like this, access Lifeline.

“You have every right to hold people like myself accountable to make sure we get resources to you.”

Resilience and generosity are qualities the Illawarra community has called on time and again over the past few years.

The region has recorded significant flood events every year since 2020.

Minister Park said due to the nature of the Illawarra, and the worsening effects of climate change, residents could expect that trend to continue.

“This is a significant event. We live in a challenging topography, with a steep escarpment and an ocean, so water moves across a very small area very fast,” he said.

“We’ve had a number of flood events like this since 2020, and the nature of climate change means we’re going to experience more of these events.

“As a community, we have to adapt to that.”

READ ALSO ‘They came to our rescue’: Businesses, community rally around Shell’s Austinmer after flood devastation

Minister Park said local, state and federal governments must come together to discuss long-term plans to adapt to the impact of heavy rainfall events on the region.

One of those strategies could be the voluntary acquisition of flood-prone homes.

“[Planning and Public Spaces] Minister [Paul] Scully and the Wollongong City Council need to sit down and have conversations about what we need to do,” Mr Park said.

“The State Government provides funding through flood mitigation for the voluntary acquisition of homes, and we will sit down with Wollongong City Council to see what they think could be done.

“In addition to the acquisitions of homes, there is the potential for upgrades to flood mitigation works. Then we have to have that discussion with the community.”

If you need help but cannot attend one of the RAPs, contact Service NSW for remote assistance, with customer care specialists available by phoning 13 77 88.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.