The flood recovery continues to dominate proceedings at Lismore City Council meetings, with councillors this week addressing issues such as rate relief, temporary dwellings, confirmation of the official death toll, and flood preparedness.
Councillors voted to ask the NSW Government to pay for the rates and water charges of Lismore LGA ratepayers impacted by the 2022 floods for the FY2022-23.
The general manager John Walker said the council had "very limited resources to subsidise rate relief, especially considering the significant impact of the natural disaster on the council's own assets and resources", and that legally, under the Local Government Act, the council must charge rates.
Debt write-off can only be offered on a case by case basis after other avenues had been exhausted to recoup debts, but councillors amended the Rates & Charges Hardship Policy to include a clause relating to disasters.
A new application form to be included in the policy for public exhibition allows people to state their case for debt relief due to the impact of a natural disaster.
Councillors also resolved to waive interest on overdue rates, as well as investigate excess water charges.
The collection of the 1998/99 Special Rate Variation levy and 2018/19 Special Business Variation levy will be suspended for Lismore businesses until 2023 after councillors voted to provide this relief after the flood. As they are levies, the decision will not impact on other ratepayers.
Council will also look into relaxing rules around multiple temporary dwellings being permitted on farm land. Councillors heard this would help those who were displaced during the flood, but also provide much needed extra income for land owners.
Councillors also discussed the need to have a Disaster Management Committee to look at council's disaster response and document it, ensuring councillors, both now and in the future, understand relevant processes when a disaster occurs.
Councillors voted to defer the decision until the June meeting to determine how it would be paid for, and whether a similar project was funded after the 2017 flood.
Council staff clarified the rules and regulations surrounding businesses working from home after the flood, with businesses permitted to relocate to a dwelling for 12 months. Retail sales could not be undertaken at that premises, however orders and deliveries could be taken.
The general manager told councillors police confirmed five people lost their lives in the February-March floods.
It was in response to a question by Cr Big Rob, who said earlier he was looking for clarity for the community as rumour on social media was rife over the number of casualties.
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