Two recovery centres, in addition to six operating in northern NSW, will be opened in the Hawkesbury-Nepean area to provide access to multiple government agencies for flooding survivors in need of support and assistance.
The expansion comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared a national emergency in NSW late on Friday, triggering additional resources for the state and allowing the federal government to access stockpiled resources and remove red tape in terms of business and welfare support.
“It’s going to be a long road back,” Mr Morrison said as he toured the flooded Windsor region on Saturday.
Resilience NSW Metropolitan Sydney director Dean Betts has been named to co-ordinate the task by NSW Flood Recovery Minister Steph Cooke, while Deputy Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon is recovery co-ordinator for the Northern Rivers disaster.
Moderate flooding is ongoing along the Hawkesbury River at Windsor (8.2 metres and falling late Saturday morning) and to a lesser extent at North Richmond and Sackville.
Flood waters high but dropping
Waters have receded from major flood levels after peaking just above 14 metres at North Richmond on Wednesday morning.
However, Cornwallis, parts of Pitt Town and Lower Portland, and Colo and Colo Heights are among a number of communities still to face the full impact and possible isolation, the SES says.
Residents of a dozen councils in NSW were made eligible for disaster funding on Friday, with one-off payments of $1000 per adult and $400 per child available for those affected.
Workers, businesses and farmers who lost income can also apply for 13 weeks’ assistance.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the focus in the Northern Rivers remained on cleaning up and finding housing for displaced residents.
The first 20 motorhomes to provide temporary accommodation are due to arrive in the region on Sunday, with 100 more to follow.
The mobile shelters are stage one of a $551 million housing support package.
Staggering insurance payouts
As of Friday, about 5500 damaged residences had been assessed and about half deemed inhabitable.
The Insurance Council of Australia estimates 126,511 claims across Queensland and NSW would cost insurers $1.89 billion but concedes further claims are likely.
With the clean-up under way in western Sydney, residents are being advised not to travel there or to the Blue Mountains this weekend.
North Richmond Bridge has reopened, with a single lane operating under a controlled flow system and a 40km/h limit.
Motorists are also advised to delay non-essential travel through Mount Victoria, where only one lane of the Great Western Highway is open.
Elsewhere more than 100 workers are assessing damage to the state’s roads.
Rail network another casualty
“The exceedingly heavy rain created countless mudslides and landslips across the state, and many of these affected regional roads, along with flooding and other debris,” Transport for NSW customer co-ordination executive director Roger Weeks said on Friday.
It could take some time for permanent fixes to be in place.
Rail infrastructure has also been badly damaged.
NSWTrainlink chief executive Dale Merrick said all major regional lines out of Sydney had been damaged by heavy rain and landslips.
Services are expected to be disrupted for the next week at least.