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WATCH LIVE: Scott Morrison’s visit to Lismore to declare a national emergency

Scott Morrison has announced additional financial support for residents most affected by catastrophic flooding in northern NSW as he visited Lismore amid protests.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the flooding in northern New South Wales as a “catastrophe” as he announced extra financial support for thousands of affected residents.

Mr Morrison visited Lismore on Wednesday where he said he empathised “absolutely with how people feel” as protestors greeted his arrival at the city’s council chambers.

The regional city was the epicenter of the state’s deadly flood disaster, with waters rising 2.3 meters beyond the previous record, leaving homes and businesses destroyed.

The Prime Minister said there was no other flood event that has occurred on the Northern Rivers “like this in anyone’s living or recorded memory.”

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He said residents in the Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley local government areas will receive two additional disaster payments.

Those who have already claimed and received the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment – $1,000 per adult and $400 per child – will automatically receive the payment again on March 15 and 22.

Mr Morrison said he also intended to recommend to the Governor-General that a national emergency declaration be made that covers the severe weather and flooding in NSW and Queensland.

The Prime Minister said this was “to ensure all our emergency powers are available and that we cut through any red tape we might face in delivering services and support on the ground.”

“I have made this decision today, in consultation with the Premiers, after further briefings from government agencies about the situation in northern NSW and seeing the catastrophe first hand,” he said.

“We introduced the power to make a national emergency declaration after the Black Summer bushfires and it will ensure our Ministers and agencies don’t face any unnecessary bureaucracy as they roll out what communities need.

“The feedback we’ve had from communities, state governments and my own ministers who have visited the impacted areas has helped us identify where the gaps are right now, and how we can get support out the door quickly to where it’s needed.”

About 100 protesters greeted Mr Morrison early afternoon as he made his way into Lismore’s emergency operations center located within the council chambers at Goonellabah.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce earlier in the day said he would be “incredibly surprised” if Mr Morrison had received a warm welcome in Lismore.

Protesters held up signs up such as “announce a climate emergency” and “this is a climate crisis.” Dozens of police were at the scene.

Mr Morrison said he understood the anger, frustration and sense of abandonment as he pledged to support residents as the recovery operation continues.

“I feel deeply and emphatically with how people feel when they find themselves in situations as the rain comes pouring down and places are cut off,” he said.

“But I am in awe of the collective response that has been put in place so I absolutely understand the frustration, I understand the anger, I understand the disappointment, I understand the sense of abandonment.

“So what do we do about that? We restore, we support, we fund and as I said, making sure that we can get that emergency financial assistance into people’s pockets which was done in a matter of instantaneously within a week. And we’ I’ll continue to do that.”

The Prime Minister was earlier accused of shutting out media while visiting a farm and individuals impacted by the floods.

He said the decision to not let the cameras in was made “out of respect for the privacy of those I was speaking with”.

“In disasters like this not everybody wants a camera shoved in their face while they’re trying to share their heart with you,” Mr Morrison said.

“I came up here to listen to them and what they’re going through and understand what was needed for their primary production business, their local paint business, those householders themselves about what was needed to ensure we can get this town back on its feet .”

It comes more than two years after the Prime Minister was greeted with hostility while visiting bushfire victims in Cobargo, in south-eastern NSW, in January 2020.

Mr Morrison was confronted by angry locals, complaints about funding and a firefighter who refused to shake his hand.

Further financial support announced by Mr Morrison on Wednesday include $10 million towards the “Resilient Kids” program for school-aged children across the Northern Rivers.

Funding has also been provided for immediate and long-term local mental health support and to help communities recover and build resilience ($31.2 million) and to expand the business recovery and resilience service into at least 30 flood-affected regions ($7 million).

There is also support for emergency relief, food relief and financial counseling services ($25 million), legal assistance services ($5.4 million) and the immediate continuity of primary health care services in flood-impacted areas ($4.7 million).

Money will also be given to extend the Regional Small Business Support Program ($800,000), to assist affected early childhood education and care services (about $6.9 million) and a bespoke business support package for Norco, in partnership with the NSW government.

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