Northern Rivers floods left 'scar on my community': MP

·3-min read

The northern NSW community remains hurt and scarred by the catastrophic flooding that hit the area last year, a newly elected state MP says.

"The 2022 floods have left a scar on my community that has not healed, but is slowly healing," said Richie Williamson, the new Nationals MP for Clarence.

The Clarence electorate sits next to the Northern Rivers and was badly hit by the floods that killed five people, destroyed 5000 homes and devastated much of the community.

"Our area has been dealt some rough hands," Mr Williamson said during his first speech to state parliament on Wednesday.

"If it wasn't the drought it was the fires, which destroyed hundreds of homes in my electorate.

"If it wasn't the fires, it was the biblical-sized floods that displaced thousands. Today hundreds still remain without a home."

Locals continue to wait for their lives to return to normal, including 85-year-old Bob May from the riverside town of Woodburn, who had to be rescued in a tinny during the catastrophic flooding.

Mr May is hoping his home will be purchased as part of the government's $520 million home buyback scheme, Mr Williamson said.

Many children in the area have also not returned to their schools as the rebuilding effort continues, he said.

"I'm not saying this is anyone's fault, but it highlights the enormity of the job at hand following the floods."

The MP, who grew up in the small town of Coutts Crossing south of Grafton in northern NSW, is also a former radio announcer and mayor of Clarence Valley.

Labor MP and Dubbo local Stephen Lawrence used his own first speech to parliament to reflect on his work reforming the state's legal system with the Aboriginal Legal Service.

Arriving in Dubbo in 2010, young Aboriginal people were systematically being jailed for long terms for non-violent offences, including driving while disqualified in cases with no road safety issues, he said.

"Lives were being destroyed, in part by idiosyncratic approaches in the summary jurisdiction, that systems failed to correct," Mr Lawrence said.

The legal service successfully campaigned for a reduction in the maximum sentences, saying guidelines had become "overly harsh".

"We need activist lawyers at the coalface of the justice system, in high-volume legal practices, where they find the cases, stories, statistics, issues and patterns that can generate real change," Mr Lawrence said.

Michael Regan, the independent MP for Wakehurst, used his first speech to call for the culture in the NSW parliament to improve, saying Macquarie Street had become notorious for "bullying and intimidation".

"How about no more attempts and gotcha moments - how about just asking or answering your question without spin," Mr Regan said on Wednesday.

"How about we demonstrate to the public that question time is actually a valuable part of our parliamentary process?

"Without the perception it has now of the bullying and the intimidation and the immature behaviour - the exact kind of stuff we try to protect our kids from on social media or in the playground."