Lismore businesses fight back from the brink
THEY showed up in gumboots and suits, pinstripes and flannel, t-shirts and ties.
Some looked well groomed, others as though they had not slept in days.
Regardless of their attire, more than 320 people at the Flood Recovery Forum were united in their determination to find solutions to help get their businesses, family, employees and customers back on track.
It was standing-room only when they came together at the Lismore Chamber of Commerce & Industry event held at Southern Cross University on Thursday morning.
The people who make the Lismore CBD, South and North Lismore hub, many who have been running businesses in the city's heart for years, attended the free event.
There they heard and met members of the emergency service organisations as well as representatives of local, state and federal government organisations which weare offering assistance to small business owners through providing necessary information and support.
LCC&I president Deborah Benhayon said the forum is all about helping businesses and people to move forward.
"Nobody is not feeling devastation and concern,” she said.
"We understand and appreciate there is a lot concern and that everyone is working very hard”.
Ms Benhayon encourages all attendees to complete a business flood survey which she said will be used to assist the region to receive more flood recovery funding.
She said she hoped businesses now know the multitude of help available and people realise they are not alone.
When State Emergency Services media ordinator Janet Petitt introduced her team and thanked them for their amazing work, they received a standing ovation.
"I'm very humbled by your response,” Ms Petitt said.
"I know many of your were affected with not only your business but also your homes, as were some of our members who had their homes trashed.”
She said there were 2137 jobs, of the 483 flood rescues, 214 were in the Lismore area and these were still continuing.
"We want to hear back from you about how we worked with you in our flood messaging, hear your feedback,” she said.
"This flood was different to any other flood because of the levee and no two floods are the same.”
At the forum it was announced two Flood Recovery Centres, one each in Lismore and Murwillumbah, will be open from noon today.
The Lismore FRC is at the Public Works Facility, 120 Dalley St, East Lismore, entry via Military Rd, while the Murwillumbah FLC is at the community centre in Nullum St.
The centres will provide a one-stop shop for affected residents, businesses and farmers to access recovery assistance from a range of agencies and organisations.
Police Inspector Chris Yorke spoke about the recovery process and said the community spirit was amazing.
"I take my hat off to you, it was great seeing everyone come together,” he said.
Page MP Kevin Hogan also briefly explained the flood loans and grants criteria and encouraged people to apply.
A new video featuring flood images was played and it was announced a new commercial is being filmed to promote Lismore as a city which is still open to business.
Flood Recovery Coordinator, Euan Ferguson, said while business-owners and residents have a big task ahead regarding the infrastructure and physical side of their businesses, they could not afford to ignore the often heavy psychological impact.
Mr Ferguson said it is critical people look after themselves and their family, friends and work colleagues and to contact the Flood Recovery Centre if they need assistance.
"Firstly, Lismore, we have your back,” he said.
"A lot of people are still assessing the flood impact and it will take a while as the recovery will be quite complex and it is a long-term process. I know a number of businesses won't recover and there will probably be job losses and this will have an impact on the City of Lismore.”
Mr Ferguson said he understood people will be going through many emotions including denial, disbelief and anger.
"Mood swings will be apparent so we need to cut everyone a bit of slack,” he said.
"There will be some short fuses, neighbours need to look after neighbours, the community needs to look after each other.”
Also at the forum were Samantha and Simon Wu, who operate the Mandarin Palace at 151 Keen St, and said they were planning on re-opening as soon as possible.
Together with their three children, the couple who are the third owners of the business which has been serving Chinese meals for over 47 years, have spent the past few days cleaning out their restaurant.
"We have had the Mandarin Palace for 17 years, we have lost all our equipment, dishwashers. We pretty much have to set up the whole shop all over again,” Ms Wu said.
"We will have to get finance to set up again.”