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Army gets boots on the ground in Seymour

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By Colin MacGillivray

THE Seymour community is full of praise for Australian Defence Force, ADF, members who assisted the town’s flood recovery efforts, despite initial frustration at the length of time the government took to deploy them.

Despite being stationed minutes outside Seymour at Puckapunyal Military Area, ADF members were unable to deploy to flood-affected areas without the Federal Government approving a request for assistance from the State Government.

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The military did not assist clean-up efforts in an official capacity until several days after flooding struck the town – a source of frustration for both locals and Member for Euroa Steph Ryan.

Ms Ryan said the State Government failed to act quickly enough at the outset of the floods.

“We would have loved to have had [the ADF] in town earlier and there was definitely a great deal of frustration from the community, but I think it is important to understand that Defence was keen to help out from the very start but required the State Government to request their assistance before they could deploy,” she said.

“I think it took some time for that request to be made by the State Government, and as a result it took a while for us to get the ADF into town.”

Ms Ryan praised the work of ADF members in Seymour as exemplary.

“I think the community is deeply grateful for the work that the ADF has done over the past few days,” she said.

“It’s certainly eased the burden, and in many ways it came at the right time. When volunteers had to go back to work and were starting to burn out, the ADF came behind them with fresh legs.”

Lieutenant Conor Neligan of the School of Armour said every interaction he had with the Seymour community had been a positive one.

“We’ve been removing furniture, ripping up damaged floors and then putting the furniture back in if people require or moving it to kerbside where council has been coordinating a collection,” he said.

“The reception has been very positive. When we find properties [that have been affected], we move forward and knock on doors in the street to see if there is anyone else who might need help, because not everyone necessarily knows where to access the help.

“We’ve had a fair amount of luck going through and knocking on people’s doors … an elderly gentleman needed some assistance and … wasn’t aware that the assistance was there.”

Ms Ryan called on the state and federal governments to make flood assistance packages more immediately accessible for affected residents and businesses.

“I am concerned that the State Government seems to want to wait until this entire event has concluded in Victoria before they trigger any assistance,” she said.

“The reality is that we are a week ahead of many other communities and this event still has some way to run in terms of its impacts downstream of Echuca.

“I don’t think we can afford to wait until communities further downstream are flooded until support is activated for the Mitchell Shire region.

“I would strongly urge the State Government to activate categories C and D of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, so that businesses in Seymour can have some understanding of what support is there to help them get back on their feet.”

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