Big business leaders on the NSW Northern Rivers have said that lives will be significantly impacted if state and federal government don't contribute more money to the Anchor Business fund.
Norco boss, Michael Hampson, said up to 240 jobs are at stake if more money doesn't flow before July 15.
They urge government to "reconsider size and scope of proposed packages, to better support recovery and help safeguard the economic future of Lismore".
Four major businesses and employers on the Northern Rivers region have today united in a last ditch call for help from both the state and federal governments, calling for an increase of funding and expanded guidelines, as details around the Anchor Business Support Package announced by the Coalition more than three months ago remain unclear.
The bosses of Norco, Summerland Credit Union and Mountain Blue Farms, three major employers in region, have joined forces with Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg to spotlight the very real impacts of the information delays and funding limitations on their people, their businesses, and the wider Northern Rivers community; an initiative that is also supported by Sunshine Sugar.
An additional $14 million announced by the NSW government this week is set to support an existing $44.3m promised by the federal government to help rebuild major regional employment in Lismore and the Richmond Valley, post flood but hard hit industries say the honey pot is far from sufficient given the incredible scale of impact.
Applications to the fund, designed to help large businesses which employ more than 200 people, close July 26 and come on top of existing support of $50,000 for small and $200,000 for medium-sized businesses trying to come back from inundation.
In announcing the new money minister for emergency management, Senator Murray Watt said "we want to help local industry get back to business as soon as possible but also to help future-proof them, by improving resilience to future natural disasters".
Despite the guidelines for funding being recently released, there remains no further steps or information on how to apply, leaving many Lismore businesses in a state of limbo and unable to plan for the future.
The business community plea calls for greater assistance for other businesses that fall outside the guidelines of 'Anchor Business', but have also suffered significant damage and loss.
Norco chief executive Michael Hampson, said that due to the extent of damage to their ice cream facility, they knew early on that they would need government support in order to recover and safeguard jobs, which is why they moved so quickly in having conversations with key decision makers.
Norco is weighing-up whether to rebuild its damaged ice cream plant, with 240 workers given notice that they will be stood down from mid July unless significant increases to recovery money are forthcoming.
Mr Hampson said $60m to $70m would ill be required to rebuild the Lismore ice cream factory, which produced 55m litres of product before the February flood.
"We are extremely grateful for the support received to date which has kept our workforce of 240 people gainfully employed for 16 weeks since the floods took place and enabled us to contribute significantly to the cleanup and rebuild of the Lismore community," he said.
"However, that funding is due to end on July 15 and in the absence of any further details from the federal government, and confirmation that the state government won't be contributing to any support package, we've been forced to make some very difficult business decisions."
Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg fully supported the businesses in calling for greater assistance from both the federal and NSW state governments.
"The future of Lismore and indeed its full economic recovery relies heavily on investment and commitment from businesses, especially these anchor businesses which are not only major employers in region but contribute significantly to economic activity throughout the Northern Rivers," Cr Krieg said.
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"Without them, the future of Lismore and its economic rehabilitation is certainly at risk, which is why support and funding from both levels of government is so crucial; in fact, the future of Lismore relies on it.
"The reality is, to adequately support the needs of these businesses and safeguard jobs, the Anchor Business Support Package needs to be at least double what it currently is, and the NSW state government needs to contribute.
"So today I join these businesses in calling on both levels of government to step up, and to prioritise and deliver on this funding that is so crucial to the future of Lismore and its people," he said.
Michael Hampson added Norco had been part of the Lismore community for more than 127 years, and that they're committed to seeing the community thriving once again.
"This relies heavily on all of our businesses being able to rebuild and recover, which is why we're here today - fighting so hard for our people, our farmers, the many businesses that rely on us to survive, as well as the future of the Lismore and Northern Rivers community," he said.
Sunshine Sugar also backs calls for an increase in support funding and increased coverage period.
"The annual cane crushing season has started, with two of the three NSW sugar mills up and running; the work that has taken place behind the scenes, along with what is still needed to get the third sugar mill fully operational in the short term, is nothing short of enormous. Agriculture across the board in the Northern Rivers region has been shattered, with an estimated half a billion dollars in damages incurred.
"As one of the oldest and largest agricultural industries in the region, Sunshine Sugar's milling and refining operations sustained over $45m in immediate damages. Then there is the damage to cane crops which is impacting on the production of sugar and the availability of sugar for the refinery, which supplies some 20 per cent of the domestic market.
"Outside of the milling and refining operations, we have almost 500 local canefarming families relying on us to process their cane, many of whom have been heavily impacted, losing their homes along with crops, machinery and equipment."
Sunshine Sugar CEO Chris Connors said the Anchor government grant package was incredibly important in the short term, "but it just isn't enough".
"We have been consulting with both State and Federal Governments looking to increase the Anchor grant from $50m up to $100m and increase the timeline on expenditure so longer-term projects can receive assistance." Mr Connors said.
"A number of business leaders in the Northern Rivers are calling for an increase in funding and expanded guidelines.
"Agriculture is the lifeblood of the region, supporting thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in contribution to the local economy.
"The fear is that a lack of support for local producers, processors, and manufacturers, ultimately means a lack of support for the entire Northern Rivers communities.
"Furthermore, many businesses, whether large, medium or small, now face the prospect of no longer having any flood insurance cover, making the cost of rebuilding and mitigating future impacts fraught with significant risk.
"The longer-term planning and work required around future flood mitigation needs to be supported by Government, in terms of funding, but also in terms of allocation of those funds over an adequate timeline in order to support the planning and implementation of those mitigation works."
Mr Connors advised: "Sunshine Sugar has appointed WMA Water to provide alternatives to mitigate future flooding, a process we expect will take at least twelve months. With the risk of future flood events and no insurance coverage for this type of disaster, we must implement mitigation measures that will provide protection for the long-term. If more funding is committed now, for the short- and medium-term recovery and mitigation effort, business and industry, and ultimately the broader local community, will be spared from this level of heartache and loss over the long-term".
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