A flood-affected Gunnedah business owner is desperate for answers after conflicting messages about their eligibility for government assistance.

Chaffey’s Mower Clinic was inundated by water during Gunnedah’s floods late last year.

At its peak, the entire Rosemary Street site was covered by more than 40cm of floodwater and inches of river mud.

Months since the floodwater receded, business owner Gail Paddison said the recovery has been a slow and costly process.

“It’s ugly – there is mud everywhere and it’s going to take quite some time to clean it all,” Mrs Paddison said. 

“Some of it we will not be able to scrub off, so it will need to be cleaned, sanded and repainted and that’s another cost.”

There are many clean up jobs still to do – including the water-logged carpark also used as a truck loading area which will cost about $10,000 to repair. The floor in the main showroom will need replacing, as will the tea-room and staff office which were extensively damaged. The delay in these recovery tasks, the costs involved and uncertainty regarding funding support is also having a flow-on effect on its workforce. 

“We desperately need new staff, or more staff, but when the tea room looks like that, it’s hard for them to see it as a good place to work,” Gail said.

The state and federal governments recently promoted the Storm and Flood Small Business Disaster Recovery Grant. The assistance is designed to help pay for costs of clean-up and reinstatement of operations for small businesses or not-for-profit organisations that suffered direct physical damage during the November floods.

The new grants of up to $50,000 are being jointly funded under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. 

But mixed messages about grant eligibility has left Gail and her team feeling stranded in a sea of bureaucracy.

“As a small business, we’re disappointed with the inconsistency of information coming from Resilience NSW,” she said. 

“People visited after the flooding when we cleaned up most of the store and told us were definitely eligible for grants to restore our site. Then we were told we were not eligible.”

Not only were they told they were not eligible but the funding did not exist: “They said firmly, there is no money for small business,” she said.

“When I went to the website it said the funding had closed but at the moment, it says the funding is open. 

“I think they need to get their act together – they need to provide clear, up-to-date, accurate and consistent information. As a small business, it’s hard enough coping with drought, COVID and now floods without these highly paid bureaucrats giving us the run around.”

State Member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, said funding is available for businesses most affected by the flooding events.

“The November floods were devastating for many of our communities including those in the Gunnedah, the Liverpool Plains, Walcha and Tamworth regions,” Mr Anderson said.

“There are a number of grants available for those who have been directly impacted by the flooding and storm events including the recently opened  small business grant which assists businesses in recovering from these devastating floods by helping to cover the costs of clean-up and reinstate normal operation.

“Businesses can access the funding through Service NSW. If any eligible business has difficulty accessing the funding, please contact me directly.” 

Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said support would be provided as long as required.

“We will continue to support our small businesses and not-for-profits for as long as it takes to bounce back,” Mr Coulton said.

Disaster relief grants are available for eligible individuals and families whose homes and essential household contents have been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster and are uninsured. To apply, call Service NSW on 13 77 88. 

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