Rich Latimer wants to take his message on unification all the way to the top

Mitchell Craig
Updated March 23 2022 - 9:50am, first published March 17 2022 - 4:20pm
CLEAR MESSAGE: Rich Latimer speaks to a room full of media ahead of Scott Morrison's visit when the PM was at Lismore last week. Picture Mitchell Craig
CLEAR MESSAGE: Rich Latimer speaks to a room full of media ahead of Scott Morrison's visit when the PM was at Lismore last week. Picture Mitchell Craig

A CALL for change at the top while uniting to prevent future catastrophe from floods is driving Rich Latimer.

Latimer is a local volunteer who helped coordinate private air response across the Northern Rivers.

"We want change and what we really want from this is a political outcome," he said.

"Central message here that we need to be prepared for these things in the future and we need to understand from this disaster in the way the response was managed how that can be done in a real and practical way so that our children know that they have government agencies and community groups all together for when this happens again very soon.

"The government agencies need to be integrated with the community and response teams. But we actually want it in mitigation with redirected military funding and a special operations unit tied in with that.

"Major military budget redistribution is a huge one and we want the media to get behind that."

Latimer is a business owner and musician based in Bryon Bay and Mullumbimby who was in the area when the flooding and landslides began occurring in his community.

It started when a fellow parent from his daughters school called him distraught that they were isolated behind seven landslides and had been waiting hours for a rescue chopper.

Her father was also ill and she was concerned they may not make it out before more damage happened to the area.

Latimer called a friend who owned a helicopter and arranged to collect them that day.

Within hours, he went from organising a single helicopter to help a friend to managing a civil air response of over 10 privately-funded helicopters that came to the rescue of the many residents stranded in the area.

Latimer took the chance to tell his story to the media as they waited for Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference in Lismore last week.

"I'm getting inundated online with people saying we need to take this all the way to the top," he said.

"I didn't throw anyone under the bus, all I asked was if everyone wanted to come together for change.

"I feel like the message around unifying the services and the media playing a role in that really drove home with everyone who was there.

"I don't care which political party it is, all that people care about that I'm getting messages from is that this goes all the way to the top.

"In this next budget it needs to be condition of the election that we get a massive redirection of military budget into special ops climate change mitigation response and that there is a long-term plan in how our nation rallies together."

Across the region over 400 evacuations, air drops, medical access and rescues were completed from the air - using at least 15 privately-funded private helicopters.

A number of these were paid for by community crowdsourcing, with one fundraiser receiving over $50,000 in donations.

Mitchell Craig

Mitchell Craig

Senior journalist

Australian Community Media journalist with over 10 years' experience in providing quality news and sport stories.