Prime Minister Scott Morrison will head to flood devastated regions in northern NSW after finishing a week in isolation following his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Mr Morrison was due to get on an aircraft on Wednesday morning to travel to Lismore, where four people have died, hundreds have been displaced and thousands of homes and businesses have been destroyed.
The prime minister has been holding rolling meetings of federal cabinet’s expenditure review committee during the NSW and southeast Queensland floods emergency to consider how communities can be supported, alongside the NSW and Queensland governments.
Mr Morrison is expected to announce more funding to help rebuild shattered communities and local businesses, with a focus on longer-term reconstruction projects, according to The Australian.
“The flooding disaster across southeast Queensland and NSW is absolutely devastating,” Mr Morrison tweeted on Tuesday.
“While the cleanup and recovery is well underway for some, many areas particularly around Lismore remain isolated … and critical supplies being airlifted in.”
More than 2000 Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed across flood-affected areas since last week to help with rescues and the ensuing clean-up.
Mr Morrison said that number will increase to 5000 “over the next few days”.
Lismore community members and leaders have criticised the response, saying it’s been too slow.
During the height of the crisis, many residents were out on the floodwaters in their boats rescuing neighbours.
But Brigadier Robert Lording, who is on the ground in Lismore on Wednesday, said ADF personnel were moving from multiple sites around the country to staging sites out of Sydney and Melbourne.
“We have to give them the equipment they need,” he told the Nine Network.
“Most importantly, we need to have the conditions here on the ground to be able to sustain them and support them.
“That was particularly important the first few days of the operation.
“We can’t draw on the resources, the food, the petrol, the other supplies that are critical for the local communities.”
There were also issues with physically getting personnel into areas where access was limited or non-existent due to floodwaters and intense weather conditions.
As of Tuesday morning, more than $282 million in disaster payments to flood victims have been paid to 242,000 people.
Of that, $157 million has been paid to victims in NSW and $125 million in Queensland.