11:30pm: That's it from the Herald newsroom for today. Thank you for joining us.
Come back tomorrow for the latest information on the fallout from the Hunter storms.
And make sure to get your Newcastle Herald on Wednesday for a special edition of the storm coverage. However, it's worth noting that the severe weather conditions will affect distribution.
The areas affected:
- North Coast from Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest onwards.
- New England area
- Dungog, Gloucester, Clarence Town and Stroud
We will attempt delivery to Singleton depending on road closures. If Singleton is accessible we will attempt distribution to Muswellbrook, Merriwa, Mururundi and Denman.
11:30pm:Ausgrid update: Damaging winds and heavy rains are continuing to bring down powerlines and cut electricity supply to large parts of Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter region.
About 200,000 homes and businesses remain without power overnight and work to rebuild the electricity network is expected to take several days.
Customers in some locations affected by extensive storm damage could be without power until well into the weekend.
The immediate priority for crews remains reports of emergencies such as fallen wires, damaged power poles and trees on powerlines.
Ausgrid thanks customers for their patience as we continue working to make the network safe for the community and our staff.
Power supply summary
About 200,000 homes and businesses without power following winds of up to 135 km/h and more than 300mm of rain in some parts of the network today, including:
- Newcastle & Hunter region - 100,000 customers
- Central Coast - 75,000 customers
- Sydney - 25,000 customers.
11:21pm: Just before we sign off for the night, this video is worth watching. It was posted on Facebook earlier today of Kline Street, Weston.
10:45pm: Newcastle's mayor Nuatali Nelmes made an appearance on the ABC's 7.30 programme earlier this evening.
10:39pm: Ausgrid posts this message to residents across NSW.
10:09pm: The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a number of flood warning updates for rivers in the Hunter.
There is a minor flood warning in place for Lake Macquarie.
Up to 200mm of rain has fallen during the past 30 hours to 9pm on Tuesday.
Rivers in the Lake Macquarie region are predicted to reach 0.85 metres tonight with the high tide and cause minor flooding.
Meanwhile, major flooding continues to ease along the Paterson River at Gostwyck Bridge following a record flood peak level of 16.1 metres on Tuesday afternoon.
Major flooding will gradually ease overnight.
A moderate to major flood warning remain in place for the Hunter River at Maitland and Wollombi Brook.
An average of 200 millimetres of rain has fallen over the past 27 hours to 6pm on Tuesday in the area to the north of Maitland. However, the BOM says the rain has eased since midday.
This rain is expected to cause moderate flooding at Maitland early Wednesday morning and at Raymond Terrace on Tuesday night with the high tide.
Major flooding is also expected along the Wollombi Brook.
At this stage it is not possible to predict the flood peak because of uncertainty over how much more rain will fall.
The BOM predicts the Wollombi Brook will reach major flood level of 4.6 metres about 9am on Wednesday morning.
Maitland will reach a moderate flood level of about 8.9 metres around 3am on Wednesday morning.
Further rises are possible.
10pm: There is also widespread flooding in Maitland with multiple roads closed. For more information and a full list of roads to avoid go the Roads and Traffic website. Click here.
Fallen trees continue to impact on roads in Freemans Waterhole, Adamstown Heights, Tighes Hill, Tuggerah, Hexham, Karuah, Coolongolook, as the SES crews attempt to get on top of a monster number of jobs.
Meanwhile, motorists should take care throughout the Hunter with power lights still blacked out at several major intersections.
9:56pm: There is still major flooding occurring in suburbs throughout the region.
The worst affected areas include:
- Tighes Hill where Industrial Drive has been closed since 7am this morning.
- Between Heddon Greta and Gillieston Heights where Main Road has been closed between HEddon Street and Russell Street since 3.40pm this afternoon.
- Newcastle along the Esplanade between Nobbys Road and Watt Street.
- Hexham at Maitland Road has been closed in both directions since 1.45pm.
9:53pm: There is still widespread flooding in Port Stephens with multiple roads closed. Click here for more information.
9:50pm: The State Emergency Service say at least 15 crews from around the state are on their way to the Hunter to help deal with call-outs expected to come on Wednesday morning
9:46pm: The BOM says the strongest wind gusts to date include a 135km/h at Norah Head and Nobbys and 110km/h at Williamtown.
The highest rainfall totals from 9am on Monday to 9am on Tuesday include 312 mm at Dungog, 259 mm at Crawford (near Bulahdelah) and 186 mm at Wallsend.
The highest rainfall totals from 9am to 8pm today include: Maitland 292 mm, Seaham 152 mm and Tocal 158 mm.
9:42pm: An intense low pressure system continues to circle off the Hunter coast and is expected to remain slow-moving overnight, maintaining vigorous winds, large seas and periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms, the Bureau of Meteorology says.
Destructive winds averaging 90 to 100 km/h with peak gusts to 125 km/h are forecast for Hunter coastline over the next few hours.
9:20pm: The storm has also battered Marine Rescue NSW with the organisation reporting severe damage to its base.
A large area of their roofing has been ripped from the building, leading to significant water damage to the interiors of the heritage-listed structure, which is now not safe to occupy.
The nearby Marine Rescue Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie units are providing marine radio coverage until the Newcastle unit is operational again.
9:11pm: Marine Rescue NSW urges boaters to stay onshore ahead of continuing severe weather tomorrow.
Commissioner Stacey Tannos said the appalling coastal conditions would make any trip on the water extremely hazardous.
“The huge seas pose a serious risk to the safety of recreational boaters – and that of any emergency crews who would be called to their rescue should they find themselves in danger,” he said.
“Put your safety first. It’s not worth risking your life to head out in this weather.”
8:58pm: And another picture from the Herald's Ian Kirkwood.
8:51pm: This picture of a collapsed Red Rooster Chicken sign on Main Road, Edgeworth is doing the rounds on social media, and some people are claiming it as their own! But in actual fact it was taken by our very own Herald photographer Simone De Peak.
8:42pm:Herald reporter Ian Kirkwood sent this picture of ocean froth as it washes across Shortland Esplanade at Newcastle Beach on Tuesday night.
8:17pm: This video was posted on Facebook earlier today of a very flloded Hunter expressway.
7:50pm: In response to a question by the ABC's Leigh Sales about whether the warning systems failed or if the weather simply just change very rapidly, Steve Pearce had this to say:
"The weather system did change very rapidly this was an east coast low initially which are always historically very severe weather system however they come in and they go very quickly, this didn't. this has just stayed and tracked, again we have never seen these cyclonic winds last for 24 hours straight that's what's caused the majority of the damage."
7:45pm: Steve Pearce, NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Deputy Commissioner, had this to say on the ABC's 7.30 programme tonight:
"I haven't seen a storm of this magnitude in my time at the SES and indeed this would be the largest storm operation in the last ten years, very equivalent to the Pasha Bulker if not perhaps surpassing it once daylight breaks tomorrow and we truly see the devastation that's been caused in the Hunter region."
7:22pm: Ben Wright was laying in bed listening to the wind rattling against his home on Mount Hall Road in Raymond Terrace in the early hours of Tuesday morning when he heard a bang, writes Michael McGowan.
7:17pm: Police NSW have tweeted some useful contact numbers.
7:06pm: A Herald reader has just sent us this picture of a flying trampoline.
6:55pm: AAP is reporting how in Maitland locals are swapping flood tales.
Gathering in one of the few places in town with power, conveniently with beer on tap, Maitland locals are swapping tales about the worst flooding in decades.
Most businesses have closed their doors, cars have been abandoned in rising floodwaters and homes inundated with rain.
Local Paul Myers, 40, had water running down his walls from early Tuesday.‘‘I had water nearly a foot deep running down the side of the house,’’ Mr Myers said over a schooner at the Windsor Castle Hotel.‘‘There is nothing we could do to stop it.‘‘This weather hasn’t happened since the Pasha Bulker (bulk carrier was grounded on a Newcastle beach in 2007).’’
Ron Cant took refuge at the pub after having water start creeping in the back of his house, which sits on one of the most elevated streets in Maitland.
‘‘I have never seen this much rain in my whole life and I have lived in for 44 years,’’ he said.
Nick Gyger was one of the many locals utilising a pub’s power outlets to charge his phones.‘‘
At 4am it started with a loud bang with a tree down out the front of my place,’’ he said.
‘‘I have never seen it this bad in my 30 years.‘‘I can’t contact the SES either because they are constantly engaged.’’
6:25pm: NSW police also advises that the Public Information and Inquiry Centre has been activated to support the current severe weather response in NSW.
Public Information and Inquiry Centre (PIIC) on 1800 227 228.
It should be noted that this inquiry hotline does not replace any emergency hotlines.
For emergency flood calls please call the State Emergency Service on 132 500.
6:22pm: NSW police have just updated their evacuation information for the Hunter region.
Two new evacuation centres have been set up in response to the ongoing severe weather conditions impacting the Hunter region.
An evacuation centre is operating at the Senior Citizens Centre, 17E Irrawang Road, Raymond Terrace, while at East Maitland an evacuation centre is operating at the Shamrock Multipurpose Centre, Ashton Field.
An evacuation centre set up earlier today at the Dungog High School has now been closed.
When evacuating, residents are advised:
- Take your important documents, mementos and photos
- Take your spare clothing, medicines and personal hygiene supplies
- If you are going to the evacuation centre, take blankets/sleeping bags, pillows and sleeping mats.
- If possible, check to see if your neighbours need help
- Small domestic animals can be brought to the evacuation centre.
6:20pm: The SES is warning that another storm cell is expected to hit soon in the Newcastle area.
6pm: The Department of Education has confirmed that the following schools will be closed on Wednesday:
- Anna Bay Public School
- Bateau Bay Public School
- Belmont High School
- Belmont Public School
- Berkeley Vale Public School
- Bilpin Public School
- Bobs Farm Public School
- Bonnells Bay Public School
- Brisbane Water Secondary College Umina Campus
- Brooke Avenue Public school
- Callaghan College Jesmond Campus
- Callaghan College Waratah Campus
- Cardiff High School
- Central Mangrove Public School
- Charlestown South Public School
- Chertsey Public School
- Chittaway Bay Public School
- Chittaway Bay Public School
- Colo Heights Public School
- Copacabana Public School
- Elermore Vale Public School
- Empire Bay Public School
- Erina Heights Public School
- Erina High School
- Ettalong Public School
- Fern Bay Public School
- George Anderson Walpole ETU
- Glendale High School
- Glendore Public School
- Glenvale School
- Gorokan Public School
- Grahamstown Public School
- Hamilton North Public School
- Holgate Public School
- Hunter River High School
- Hunter Sports High School
- Irrawang High School
- Irrawang Public School
- Islington Public School
- Jewells Public School
- Jilliby Public School
- Karuah Public School
- Kincumber High School
- Kincumber Public School
- Kotara School
- Kulnura Public School
- Kurrajong North Public School
- Lake Macquarie High School
- Lake Munmorah High School
- Lisarow High School
- Lisarow Public School
- Longneck Lagoon Enviornmental Education Centre
- Macdonald Valley Public School
- Maraylya Public School
- Mayfield East Public School
- Mayfield West Public School
- Medowie Public School
- Minmi Public Shool
- Narara Valley High School
- New Lambton South Public School
- Newcastle East Public School
- Newcastle High School
- Newcastle Middle School
- Niagara Park Public School
- North Gosford Learning Centre
- Northlakes High School
- Northlakes Primary School
- Ourimbah Public School
- Peats Ridge Public School
- Plattsburgh Public School
- Point Clare Public School
- Pretty Beach Public Schhol
- Raymond Terrrace Public School
- Salt Ash Public School
- Seaham Public School
- Speers Point Public School
- Stockton Public School
- Tacoma Primary School
- Tanilba Bay Public School
- Toukley Public School
- Valley View Public School
- Wadalba Community School
- Wakefield School
- Wamberal Public School
- Waratah Public School
- Waratah West Public School
- Wirreanda Public School
- Woodport Public School
- Woy Woy Public School
5:48pm: These images have just dropped from Woodville by Herald photographer Peter Stoop.
5:40pm: Herald reporter Ian Kirkwood has just returned from Dungog. This is what he has to say is happening in the town.
Dungog is a town in shock after learning that three of its residents died as floodwaters ripped through the northern end of the town on Monday night.
Police have confirmed that two men and a woman died when waters ripped through a low-lying area west of the main street.
Those waters joined nearby Myall Creek, where roaring waters completely destroyed four houses – and moved a fourth from its foundations – at the Dowling Street or Dungog Road bridge.
Floodwaters isolated the town for most of the day, but the flooding receded enough late on Tuesday afternoon to allow road access from Stroud, which was also dealing with the aftermath of Monday night’s torrential rain.
On the footpath outside the Bank Hotel, Dungog, the families that lost their homes gathered with friends and relatives to shake their heads at what had happened, and to commiserate the loss of their three neighbours, who lost their lives a few blocks away.
Away from the water, the Dungog town centre was all but deserted, with most business shut, and the main movement the regular shuttle of fire brigade, police and emergency workers, assaying the damage.
On the road back to Newcastle, heavy rain and high winds lashed the Bucketts Way, with floodwaters across the road at its junction with the M1 motorway near Nine Mile Creek.
5:33pm: There are reports that the Swansea Caltex service station is now closed following a gas leak. Nearby residents report that fire brigades are now on scene and investigating.
Do you know more? email email@example.com
5:27pm: From the Bureau of Meteorology.
5:23pm: The Catholic Schools Office has confirmed that all Catholic schools within the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese will remain closed on Wednesday. The Catholic Schools Office will also remain closed.
In a statement issued a short time ago, a spokesperson for the diocese urged families to "stay safe, follow the advice of authorities and attend to the needs of your loved ones".
The Newcastle Herald is seeking an update from the Department of Education regarding public schools in the Hunter Region. A decision is expected soon, but most are expected to remain closed.
Here's the statement from Maitland-Newcastle Diocese:
"In the interest of student and staff safety, the Catholic Schools Office wishes to advise that all Catholic Schools located in storm-affected areas within the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, will remain closed on Wednesday 22nd April 2015. Families are urged to stay safe, follow the advice from authorities and attend to the needs of your loved ones during this time".
5:03pm: For some, the wild weather provides the perfect opportunity for bodyboarding in the park.
4:50pm: This is what our Beachwatch reporter Roger Clements says that we can expect on Tuesday.
We should see some improvement in the weather however the beaches will still be off limits for most. The wind will be south to south-west heading more to the west during the day but the swell is still very solid from the south-south-east around 3 to 4 metres plus. The swell will drop off so some breaks may be surfable by mid afternoon. If you’re keen for a paddle you’ll need to try the very protected southern corners such as Stockton, the Harbour, Blacksmiths, the inside reef breaks at Norah Head and Fingal Bay. A few of the experienced big wave surfers may try Merewether or Dudley later. All beaches will be closed for swimming. The water temperature is 20 degrees.
4:41pm: The Sydney Morning Herald are reporting that seasick passengers stranded outside Sydney Heads face 48-hour wait before their ship the Carnival Spirit can enter the harbour.
4:10pm: The cargo ship Pasha Bulker washed onto a reef at Nobbys Beach in June 2007 after strong winds hit the region. The weather conditions today have been likened to that incident.
What do you think? Do you think this week's weather is worse than the Pasha Bulker storm? Vote in our poll.
4:02pm: An update from Ausgird.
Roughly 100,000 Hunter houses and businesses still have no power at 4pm, Ausgrid has confirmed.
That figure is precisely half of the 200,000 missing electricity statewide, with 70,000 on the Central Coast.
With storms due to continue raging across the region and more than 4500 urgent hazards ahead of technicians, Ausgrid warns Newcastle residents to face the prospect of a night without power.
"It's likely to be several days before electricity supply is restored to all homes and businesses," the company said in a statement.
"Ausgrid thanks customers for their patience and support for crews as we prioritise these emergency repairs to help keep the community and our staff safe."
Extra staff are bolstering Ausgrid's offices and front-line teams, and residents are urged to report only hazards and emergencies until the backlog clears.
More than 90,000 calls to Ausgrid were made on Tuesday alone.
4pm: High Street in Maitland business owner, Peta Serra, one of the few lucky enough to avoid flood damage to her premises.
3:47pm: The Melbourne Street underpass in Maitland is shut.
3:38pm: Firefighters have been called to 1239 storm jobs statewide since 6am Tuesday, doubling the 1000 attended on Monday night.
Extra resources have been deployed to the Hunter to bolster the region's response, with the brutal weather expected to hold until Wednesday morning.
Rescues included two people pulled from a car in flood waters on John Renshaw Drive shortly after 1.30pm, while a mother and two children were saved from a house shifted by flood water in Greta.
Another four people were saved from a house at Kearsley.
3:37pm: The University of Newcastle will stay shut to students and non-essential staff on Wednesday.
Callaghan, Newcastle and Ourimbah were all closed to non-residents early on Tuesday amid heavy rain. Essential staff will be contacted directly. Plans for an institution-wide approach to assignment extensions will be devised and passed on.
3:35pm: A snapshot of what the Hunter River looked like at 3pm today.
3:29pm: Dungog residents have been urged to leave the township where three elderly people died amid severe flooding on Tuesday.
NSW Police have asked residents in Dungog and the surrounding shire to stay with family, friends or make other arrangements.
Dungog High School in Eloiza Street is being used as an evacuation centre.
Anyone leaving is urged to take important documents and mementos as well as spare clothes, medicines and person hygiene supplies.
Animals can be taken, as well as sleeping gear, and those evacuating are asked to help neighbours when safe and possible.
3:26pm: NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Deputy Commissioner Steven Pearce has urged commuters to leave work early to avoid travelling after dark.
He says currently there are 200,000 homes without power across NSW after cyclonic winds and rains battered the state.
Mr Pearce said the weather system should ‘‘hopefully start to ease in the next 12 hours‘‘, but that’s still 12 hours of heavy rain, damaging winds and the risk of flash flooding.
He has called on employers to allow staff to leave early, warning of possible flash flooding in Newcastle and other areas of the state.
‘‘There is flash flooding everywhere in every major city,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s far too unsafe to travel after dark.
‘‘Make plans now, leave early and get home.’’
This is ‘‘weather we haven’t seen for at least 10 years in NSW’’.
‘‘I would just urge people to start doing their travelling now,’’ he said.
And if you come across a flooded walkway or roadway, do not attempt to cross.
‘‘Make an alternate route,’’ he said.
3:19pm: Water pumping stations in the Hunter have been struck with power outages, sparking a plea from Hunter Water for customers to conserve water as storms rage on.
"Hunter Water is continuing to work with Ausgrid, however with weather conditions expected to worsen throughout the afternoon and evening, it is possible the power outages will be lengthy," the body said in a statement.
The Chichester Trunk Gravity main, a major supply artery for areas around Seaham and Maitland, has broken in flooded territory near Martins Creek.
The break area in inaccessible for repair crews as stormwater channels nudge their limits, with potential overflows in low-lying parts of Cardiff and Wallsend.
"With a number of suburbs out of water or at risk of running out, Hunter Water encourages customers to purchase bottled water," the company said.
"Customers who keep their receipts for bottled water purchases will be reimbursed for their expense."
Hunter Water has asked customers to call 1300 657 000 for emergencies only.
Suburbs with limited or lost water supply include:
Beresfield, Bonnells Bay, Branxton, Cameron Park, Dudley, Elermore Vale, Mount Hutton, Neath, New Lambton Heights, Coal Point, Newcastle West, Waratah, Whitebridge.
3:17: The Herald's Michelle Harris reports that the "one in ten-year’’ storm in which three people have already tragically died is expected to worsen in the Hunter region.
2:59pm: Here is the latest update from the Transport Management Centre for the Central Coast and Newcastle areas:
All buses in the Newcastle area will stop operating at 7pm tonight due to the adverse weather.
Passengers are advised to avoid travel as there is no forecast for when services will resume.
Route 222, 224 and 322 buses that normally travel through Wallsend, Jesmond, Broadmeadow and Newcastle have already been cancelled due to flooding in these areas.
Buses are also delayed and diverting in Maryland, Cardiff, Mayfield, Glendale, Swansea Heads and Belmont, as well as Berkeley Vale, Killcare Heights, Bateau Bay, Terrigal and Gosford.
Additionally, the weather continues to affect other modes of public transport around Newcastle and the Central Coast.
The Central Coast & Newcastle Line remains partially closed between Hamilton and Gosford due to overhead wiring repairs at Gosford, a tree on the line at Teralba and power supply problems at Wyong. A limited train service is operating between Gosford and Central, however passengers are advised to delay their journey or make alternative travel arrangements.
The Hunter Line remains closed between Hamilton and Scone and Dungog due to flooding at Hexham. Passengers are advised to delay their journey.
The Stockton to Newcastle ferry, and Central Coast Ferries between Empire Bay and Woy Woy are not operating.
Motorists are still advised to avoid all non-essential travel in the Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast regions as the adverse weather continues.
Motorists who do need to travel should exercise extreme caution and allow plenty of extra travel time.
In the Hunter:
The Pacific Highway is closed northbound 10km north of Raymond Terrace due to fallen trees and flooding, and there is no suitable diversion.
The Pacific Highway is also closed in both directions at Bucketts Way in Twelve Mile Creek due to fallen trees and flooding, and there is also no suitable diversion.
Sections of the Pacific Highway have been reduced to one lane between Hexham and Karuah due to a number of fallen trees.
The New England Highway is closed between Branxton and Greta due to flooding.
Maitland Road is closed at Old Maitland Road in Hexham due to flooding.
Alternating (stop/slow) is in place on the Pacific Highway between Heatherbrae and Karuah as a clean up takes place to remove fallen trees.
The Esplanade is closed between Nobbys Road and Watts Street in Newcastle due to flooding.
Industrial Drive is closed for light vehicles near Grose Street in Tighes Hill due to flooding, but heavy vehicles can still get through.
One southbound lane is closed on the Pacific Highway near Northcott Drive in Adamstown Heights due to fallen trees .
Eastbound traffic is affected on John Renshaw Drive near Four Mile Creek in Black Hill by a fallen tree.
Traffic lights are blacked out at various locations around the Hunter.
On the Central Coast:
Wyong Road is closed westbound at Bryant Road in Tuggerah due to a fallen tree, a local diversion is in place.
There are a number of traffic lights blacked out in the Erina area.
The Pacific Highway has reopened between Calga and Somersby now that a fallen tree has been removed. The diversion via the M1 Pacific Motorway (F3) has been lifted.
2:48pm: A Herald reader has sent this picture from East Maitland, the corner of the New England Highway and Chelmsford Drive.
2:45pm: Some Newcastle residents have reported receiving text messages from the State Emergency Service just minutes ago, warning them of flash flooding in waterways in the city.
2:27pm: Flood waters have risen faster than expected at Gostwykc, potentially signalling a higher peak for some rivers than originally feared.
Paterson river has peaked at 16 metres at 2pm, higher than the peak in March 1978's major storm.
Clarence Town and Glen Martin are forecast to receive significant rural flooding.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation's operations have been halted, with tracks requiring extensive repairs in order to resume services after parts of it washed away.
"Given the current weather conditions and forecast further weather events and rising water over track, it is not possible to provide a forecast for when services might return," the company said in its statement.
"Access to locations is difficult and while the weather continues, staff will continue to monitor the situation, begin initial planning and mobilise resources in readiness for when the repair works can safely begin."
2:24pm: Severe weather will shut the Aspect Hunter School for Children with Autism again on Wednesday.
2:26pm: An Insurance Council of Australia spokeswoman said insureres are monitoring the severe weather lashing the Hunter, having receiving 5500 claims.
"Most claims are for minor water egress and wind-related damage, and for vehicle damage," the spokeswoman said.
"The Insurance Council encourages insured householders who have experienced storm-related damage to contact their insurer.
"Call centres are standing by to help customers and guide them through the claims process. Many insurers operate their call centres 24 hours a day."
- While conditions are severe, stay indoors and keep clear of windows
- Stay away from storm-damaged areas and property until emergency services declare it is safe to return
- Follow local media reports to get as much information as possible
- Stay away from downed power lines, poles and wires, and fallen trees
- Avoid entering floodwater on foot or in a vehicle. Floodwater can contain raw sewage and contaminants, conduct electricity and can mask hidden hazards. It can be deeper than you may suspect, and may be flowing rapidly
- Check your home for damage. If you need help from state emergency services volunteers call your local SES unit. If in a life-threatening emergency contact 000
- Avoid turning the power on at your home if there is flooding or water damage. Have a professional conduct a thorough inspection first
- If your home is unsafe, notify your local authorities and check with your insurance company whether you can claim temporary housing expenses
- Contact your insurer as soon as you are able to lodge a claim
- Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy
- Avoid driving as roads may be blocked
- As evidence to support your claim, take pictures of damage to property and possessions, and keep samples of materials from damaged goods. This will be used by your insurer to process your claim as quickly as possible
- You can remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings, but take photos and keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor
- Keep any items that could be repaired and if in doubt speak to your insurer
- Make a list of each item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number
- Do not be concerned if you can’t find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address
2:25pm: Here's the latest on what is going on with transport.
- The Pacific Highway is shut 10km north of Raymond Terrace. There is no diversion.
- Flooding has shut the New England Highway between Branxton and Greta.
- Maitland Road is flooded at Hexham.
- Flooding at Nobbys has closed the Esplanade.
- Industrial Drive is closed for light vehicles near Grose Street in Tighes Hill due to flooding, but heavy vehicles can still get through.
- One southbound lane is closed on the Pacific Highway near Northcott Drive in Adamstown Heights.
- The Stockton Ferry and all Hunter trains are also not running.
2:14pm: Here is a list of the schools that have temporarily ceased operations Tuesday 21 April 2015 issued by NSW Education and Communities.
2:03pm: An evacuation centre is being set up in Dungog amid predictions the wild weather in which three people have already tragically died is expected to worsen in the Hunter region, Premier Mike Baird says.
The Premier has asked bosses to be flexible and allow staff to leave early to get home on daylight hours, amid the "one in 10 year" storm that had proven more severe than was forecast.
But conditions are predicted to get worse in the next 12 hours.
2:00pm: Newy Burger are helping those out that have been left without power.
1:55pm: A Public Information and Inquiry Centre is supporting authorities as they deal with the storm. Anyone seeking flood or storm information can call 1800 227 228, reducing the burden on front-line emergency services. The number does not replace Triple Zero or other emergency lines. For emergency flood calls please call the State Emergency Service on 132 500.
1:44pm:Herald journalist Jason Gordon is at Wangi and this is what he has to report:
Thousands of trees in southern Lake Macquarie have also been uprooted as the lake surges into homes in low-lying areas.
At Wangi Wangi, wind gusts of more than 120kmh were recorded by residential weather stations.
Several homes have been significantly damaged by fallen trees. Huge trees have also fallen in Watkins Road and on Dobell Drive where one narrowly missed a Pre-school. Dobell Park has also lost many of its trees, some crashing through picnic shelters and children's playgrounds and sending corrugated iron flying through the town's main street.
The wind has created a huge swell in the southern expanses of the lake, consuming and destroying some public jetties.
Further south at Morisset, about 50 large trees have fallen at Morisset Country Club. Homes have been damaged at Wyee while low-lying properties at Dora Creek have been inundated by lake surges.
At Toronto, almost all businesses and schools have been closed for the day as emergency services begin the long task of clearing roads and restoring power and phone services.
All suburbs in the south-western corners of Lake Macquarie remain without power which was first lost at Wangi Wangi shortly after 11pm on Monday.
1:41pm: The transport minister also advises that people should check livetraffic.com or ring 132 701 for traffic updates or ring 131 500 for transport updates.
1:34pm: "Throughout the Hunter people need to be aware not to travel at night", warns the Andrew Constance, NSW Transport Minister in a press conference.
1:32pm: From AAP: The SES has described the weather conditions as the state’s worst in five years.‘‘This is going to be catastrophic today,’’ SES Deputy Commissioner Steve Pearce told Macquarie Radio.
1:30pm: The Pacific Highway is open again between Karuah and Heatherbrae, but traffic is moving slowly. Exercise caution and do not drive through flood water.
1:26pm: Hunter Valley Grammar School students have been urged to stay home on Wednesday as severe conditions lash the Hunter for a second day. Classes are expected to resume Thursday. The school is the Hunter's first to make a definitive decision on whether lessons will proceed on Wednesday.
1:25pm: "In the midst of challenging weather", says Premier Mike Baird in a press conference about the weather across NSW.
Here's a screen grab from the radar.
1:20pm: Broadmeadow Stadium will remain shut on Tuesday following a loss of power and closure of Young Road. There will be no junior or senior competitions on Tuesday night.
1:18pm: Herald reporter Ian Kirkwood reports: A RETIRED couple are in hospital with hypothermia after a flash flood roared through Stroud in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
1:04pm:Herald's Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw report: Cyclonic winds battered Lake Macquarie on Tuesday, as residents absorbed the carnage and braced for more to come.
1:03pm: Fire and Rescue NSW crews have rescued a woman and two children from a flooded house in Sale Street at Greta.
A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman said the house was severely damaged by flood and those rescued were suffering from hypothermia.
12:43pm: BREAKING NEWS: Raging flash floods have claimed the lives of three elderly people and four houses have washed away in Dungog.
Two men and one woman were trapped in their residences as flood water surged through the town in the early hours of Tuesday.
After raining heavily all night, the heavens truly opened about 4.30am and the deluge has barely stopped.
There is no power, no mobile service and a number of roads and bridges have been washed away in the Dungog district.
It is understood the SES also rescued a couple in their 70s as they dangled from their gutters. A younger couple also was rescued from their house roof.
Stroud too, like all parts of the lower Hunter, has felt the full force of the appalling weather. It is believed showground campers were caught by flood water.One person is believed to be missing.
Senior Constable Dave Hanna, who was on his way to Stroud to lend assistance, turned back when matters escalated in Dungog. However, conditions changed so dramatically so quickly, he was forced to park his car on the outskirts of town and walk 2km along the train tracks.
12:40pm: There have been reports of a house being washed away in Dungog.
Footage posted on social media, believed to be filmed from near the Bank Hotel in Dowling Street, appears to show a house being washed away.
12:27pm: Tianna Brien knew it was raining hard, but she wasn't quite ready for a house to float past her Toronto home during her morning coffee, writes Matt Carr.
12:17pm: The Nelson Bay CBD is being pummelled with heavy rain on Tuesday morning.
Roads around the town's marina including Victoria Parade and Government Road are flooded.
Nelson Bay Road, the only road leading into the seaside town, is littered with fallen trees and signs that have been ripped from the ground. In Salt Ash, two large fallen trees only just avoided houses.
12:14pm: Here's the state of play in Singleton: Singleton Council is coordinating with State Emergency Services and police to ensure road users' safety in the treacherous conditions. Council is urging people not to drive through flood water, regardless of whether signs are up.
Here is list of road closures as of 11am:
NEW ENGLAND HIGHWAY – NEAR LANCASTER’S – Water over Road – RMS setting up traffic control
MUDDIES CREEK, MITCHELL LINE OF ROAD/GOLDEN HIGHWAY – CLOSED – Traffic control is being set up in this area
INTERSECTION OF MCMULLINS AND RUSTY LANE is underwater – RFS are attending to it.
EDWARD STREET and BOND, DEAKIN, LOADER STREET – CLOSED – water up to bonnets of cars.
PIONEER ROAD – GRAVEL SECTION – underwater and caution to be exercised – yet to be inspected
GOORANGOOLA ROAD – ALL CAUSEWAYS - CLOSED
ELDERSLIE ROAD – CLOSED – under traffic control by Singleton Council
HOLE IN THE WALL on NEW ENGLAND HIGHWAY – under traffic control by Singleton Council
BRIDGMAN ROAD (Near Blaxland Avenue) – CLOSED Several small vehicles attempting to drive through and are getting stuck.
CRANKY CORNER ROAD – CLOSED Mudslide reported on Cranky Corner Road approximately 1km past the last cattle grid near Bimbadeen Road. Approximately 2 meters of mud across the road.
RANGE ROAD - CLOSED Range Road has collapsed near the Army Camp
Streets in town particularly all the intersections of Bourke Street, Kelso Street, Edward Street at Kelso Street, parts of Boundary Street, Raworth Street and bits of Dangar Street are under water. Road users are requested to exercise caution while using all streets in Singleton Township.
Roads in rural areas will be closed from time to time. Please do not drive through flood waters. Road users are requested to exercise caution while using Council roads. The following rural roads are closed at the time of this update: Standen Drive Causeway below Kirkton School is flooded. No temporary signage as permanent signage available at the time of the update.
NSW Police has notified the flooding of causeway at Hebden Road at 8:30 am. Council staff is putting up road closure signs to warn road users of this closure.
‘Water Over Road’ signs placed at Kelso Street (call out at 4am) Bridgman Road Corner of White Avenue and New England Highway Rock Slide was reported at Carrowbrook Road and crews will be responding to it as soon resources permit.
Tree over road at Maison Dieu Road is removed and the road is now open.
The causeways on the following roads closed: Old Carrowbrook Road, Gearys Crossing Road, Goorangoola Road, Lemington Road, Glendon Lane, Mitchells Flat Road, Wollombi Road, Milbrodale Road, Stanhope Road, Standen Drive and Mirannie Road.
12:09pm: Traffic lights are out at significant intersections from Mayfield to Newcastle, including Hanbury, Beaumont and Tudor Streets. At present there are no police on the scene directing traffic.
A long-time employee at Mayfield East Newsagency, Kareena Myers (Kareena Myers), said her usual 20-minute drive to work from Cardiff this morning took more than an hour because of extensive road closures. She was forced to drive to Mayfield via Warners Bay and Charlestown.
"The Pasha storm had worse rain, but this one has stronger wind," she said. "I kept all my kids home from school. It's just too dangerous."
Drenched University of Newcastle student Karim Haddad was not aware the Callaghan campus was closed today when the Herald approached him at a bus stop on Maitland Road.
"The electricity was gone this morning and I could not charge my phone to check for information," he said.
Pockets of streets within the suburb are still without power.
11:59am: Herald reporter Joanne McCarthy has sent this video.
11:55am: The Annual Combined Schools Anzac Service has been postponed until May 6 due to the storms. The event, originally scheduled for Wednesday, includes 1500 children and adults.
11:46am: This is the latest information from Ausgrid:
Emergency crews are responding to more than 3000 reports of hazards including fallen poles and powerlines and trees on wires after major storms cut power to 215,000 homes and businesses in Sydney, the Central Coast and Hunter.
As the bad weather conditions continue, Ausgrid is warning that it could take several days before all repairs are made and power returned.
Our immediate focus is on safety with crews going from street to street to carry out emergency repairs and de-energise and cut away powerlines to make the network safe.
Crews will then be able to start work on repairing storm damage to major powerlines and restoring supply to essential services including transport services, hospitals and water pumping stations.
We are bringing in additional crews from other networks to assist but it's expected to take until later this week to restore power to all locations, particularly remote areas which have suffered significant storm damage.
Additional teams are also being brought into our contact centres to help answer emergency calls. Due to the volume of calls and wait times, callers are asked not to hold on to speak to an operator unless they are reporting an immediate safety hazard or emergency.
Customers using life support equipment should be activating their back up plans in case of an extended outage to their home. Neighbours are also encouraged to check on elderly residents and others who might need assistance.
It is estimated that there are about 215,000 homes and businesses currently without power, with bad weather continuing to cause damage to the network.
- Newcastle, the Hunter, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens: 90,000 customers
- Central Coast: 75,000 customers
- Sydney: 50,000 customers
- Almost 60,000 calls to Ausgrid contact centres since midnight
- More than 3,000 reports of urgent hazards including wires and poles down and trees on powerlines.
11:38am: Greta and Millers Forest may be flooded unless the rain starts to abate, the SES says.
More than 100mm of rain has fallen since 10am north of Maitland, the State Emergency Service says. Minor flooding at Maitland is expected around midnight,and the water keeps rising.
"At this stage it is not possible to predict the flood peak because of uncertainty over how much more rain will fall," the SES said.
Newcastle City Council has also issued a warning that trees still pose a risk as the rain beats into soft earth.
"There is still a substantial risk of trees failing, so please exercise extreme caution and avoid these areas,"
"Lifting pavement and loud creaking noises are signs that the tree is at imminent risk but branches could fall anytime."
"As the rain continues to soften the ground and the wind continues to blow, the risks are increasing."
11:33am: Here's a selection of storm photos from Instagram users around Newcastle.
11:32am: The Pacific Highway north of Newcastle has shut.
11:30am: This just in from AAP: More than 20 people have been rescued from floodwaters and 180,000 homes and businesses are without power as storms continue to lash NSW.
State Emergency Service personnel and firefighters in Stroud, just north of Newcastle, have rescued 10 people from rooftops in the state’s wildest weather in five years.
One woman who was trapped on a roof is understood to have suffered a cardiac arrest.
‘‘The elderly female is in a critical condition and transported to hospital. We have other rescues on at the moment and in some of those situations we hold grave concerns for those persons,’’ said SES deputy commissioner Steve Pearce.
11:20am:Herald reporter Tim Connell writes that: The cyclonic winds besieging the Hunter have begun to ease, but the storm is expected to double back over Newcastle and bring 60km/h gusts and heavy rain tomorrow.
11:02am: Lake Macquarie jetty is consumed by the swollen lake - an image from a Herald reader.
10:56AM: Check out this video from Facebook of flooding at of Warners Bay.
10:35am: Stockland Wallsend is reportedly closed. Calls to the centre have so far gone unanswered.
10:31am: Paterson is likely to be isolated as flood waters rise across the Hunter's rural properties.
With 260mm in 32 hours before 8am, swollen rivers are due to rise by midday and into the afternoon.
The State Emergency Service's latest river reading at Gostwyck Bridge has the river up 11.94 metres, with a peak at 13 metres expected around noon.
The Williams river is also expected to hit 9 metres at Dungog Rising waters will likely shut Tocal Road near the Clements Bridge, about three kilometres south of Paterson, leaving the village cut off by road.
The following roads are closed:
* Fosterton Road at Fosterton Bridge.
* Alison Road (southern end) at Thalaba Bridge.
* Glen Williams to Dungog Road at Banfield Bridge, Glen William.
* Vacy to Wallarobba Road at Horns Crossing. Alternate route via Gostwyck Bridge
* Martins Creek Road
* Maitland Road (Tocal Road) between John Tucker Park and the Albert Street intersection. An alternate route is via Sloane Street, Paterson
* Fosterton Road at various locations, isolating over 15 houses.
* Dungog to Alison Road 100m south of intersection with Dungog to Stroud Road.
- Flooding in Myall Creek has affect properties in Dowling Streets, Dungog
- Residential properties in Dowling and Brown Streets, Dungog have been
- The following roads may begin to close – evacuated.
- Paterson to Woodville Road at Dunns Creek and then at Iona
- Woodville to Seaham Road at Taylors Bridge
The following rural localities may start to become flood affected, causing road closures and isolation –
* Bellevue Estate (north-east corner of Wallalong)
* Bowthorne (north of Wallalong)
* Phoenix Park (north of Morpeth)
There is also a minor flood warning for Maitland, where the river is up nine metres at the Belmore bridge.
10:14am: Our state reporter Michelle Harris writes that authorities warn Hunter residents to avoid non-essential travel. Read more here.
10:09: Most Hunter hospitals are subsisting on generator power, Hunter New England Health has confirmed, including the John Hunter Hospital. Patients have been advised not to attend non-urgent appointments or hospitals unless absolutely necessary.
"A number of our facilities have been affected by the weather in the greater Newcastle area and Bulahdelah," the health body said in a statement.
Children's community health services are cancelled due to a lack of staff.
10:07am: Roughly 800 firefighters in 200 trucks have been working through what they describe as one of the organisation's busiest nights ever.
Commissioner Greg Mullions said Fire and Rescue NSW took more than 3000 Triple Zero calls since 6pm Monday, including rescuing a number of people trapped in Stroud.
On Monday night a Raymond Terrace firefighter was hurt when a large tree crushed a fire truck cabin at Heatherbrae.
He suffered minor injuries and is in a stable condition.
At Morriset, downed powerlines trapped firefighters inside their truck.
Commissioner Mullins said FRNSW would continue to support SES volunteers.
“I can only praise firefighters and our other emergency service colleagues for their mighty effort," he said.
9:56am: The Greater has shut its 34 Hunter and Central coast branches for safety reasons. The building society has directed customers to call 1300 651 400 for banking, but have limited staff available.
9:56am: A reader has sent this picture of storm damage in Zaara Street, Newcastle showing the front doors of a unit and the roof of the building next door in the pool.
9:55am: Traffic lights are blacked out across the region due to the massive toll the storm has taken on the electrical system. They appear to be widespread - Valentine, Broadmeadow and The Junction are among areas struck down.
9:49am: NSW Police have confirmed there were no children on the school bus swept into water at Martins Creek. Driver was winched to safety.
9.45AM: Herald photographer Darren Pateman has sent through this image of a house at Rankin Park smashed by a falling tree.
9.42AM: Roads and transport remain unchanged. Ferries and trains remain offline, with trees and fallen power lines closing various roads as emergency crews work to keep the network clear. The message is still clear - avoid driving or travelling unless absolutely necessary.
9.38AM: Here's the list of school closures due to the storm:
9.35AM: State Emergency Service crews are working on a flood rescue after a bus washed off Martins Creek Road, roughly a kilometre past Keppie Lane. It's unclear how many people are in the bus.
It is the second bus incident due to the storm on Tuesday, with a bus and a power pole colliding between Raymond Terrace and Maitland earlier in the day.
9.30AM: Boat owners woke to bad news at Gosford and Terrigal with two yachts and a fishing boat smashing against rocks at Gosford breakwater at dawn and a charter vessel stranded on the sand at Terrigal Beach.
Early risers captured dramatic shots of the yachts and the fishing boat hitting the rocks near Central Coast Stadium as waves from the normally placid Brisbane Waters topped the breakwater and ruled out any salvage attempts.
The owner of the fishing boat was unaware it was being destroyed until a phone call while he was buying a coffee on his way to work.
At Terrigal a large charter vessel was stranded about 100 metres north of Terrigal lagoon which was opened to the ocean late Monday as it threatened to flood houses on its foreshore.
The charter vessel did not join a fleet of boats which left Terrigal Haven on Monday after hazardous weather predictions.
The vessel lost its moorings some time during Monday night’s gale-force conditions and drifted more than one kilometre from the Haven to land on Terrigal Beach across the bay.
The vessel was increasingly hit by large waves after 8am as high tide approached.
9.20AM: Herald photographer Darren Pateman just caught this image at Cardiff.
9.15AM: Dungog is facing a long day, with the river's peak not set. It's expected to reach 9.5 metres or even higher by 3pm.
Aberglasslyn Road is reportedly shut, while power outages have closed Rutherford Shopping Centre.
9.05AM: Full details on state schools are coming through, but it's understood they are being considered on a case by case basis. With authorities urging people to stay off the roads and businesses sending staff home, keeping the kids at home is understandable.
Speaking of education, readers are sending us pics of trees down at the University of Newcastle's student accommodation.
9AM: The latest from the Bureau of Meteorology, issued shortly before 8.30am, warned winds were averaging 90km/hr to 100km/hr and reaching up to 135km/hr. They have recorded a 135km/hr gust at Nobbys overnight - that's a wind speed associated with category two cyclones.
"At 8am a line of thunderstorms was occurring from about Nelson Bay to Branxton...causing localised intense rainfall," the Bureau warned.
"Over the next three to six hours this line will drift slowly to the south."
Dungog has received 312mm since 9am on Monday, with 259mm recorded near Bulahdelah and 176mm at Wallsend.
The next warning is due at 11.15am, but it appears the severe weather is here to stay for at least the next few hours.
8.50AM: Plenty of Hunter houses are damaged, with pictures streaming through of destroyed cars and buildings as trees tumble around the region. Conditions are expected to continue on Tuesday, with rivers at Dungog and Gostwyck expected to reach flood levels by about midday.
Authorities are still unsure how high the water will go, and won't know until the rain begins to ease.
8.45AM: The Catholic Schools Office is shutting schools. Normal classes will not run, and there will be limited or no staff at each campus. Diocese workers are also being urged to stay at home or exercise extreme caution. Read the full statement here.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has also confirmed the search continues for a Stroud couple missing in floodwater.
8.35AM: King Street is closed at Steel Street. There are reports that a couple missing in raging floodwater at Scone have been found safe and well, but NSW Police were unable to confirm when contacted by the Herald. They obviously have their hands full.
We also have reports of chaos in Wangi Wangi, where dozens of roads are blocked and at least two houses have been struck by trees.
8.20AM: Staff at Broadmeadow's UGL site and the Newcastle CSIRO have been sent home from the company's Broadmeadow base due to the weather, while schools across the Hunter are deciding whether to open on an individual basis.
Reports are coming through of flooding in Raymond Terrace and power outages in Lambton. Ausgrid says more than 55,000 homes and businesses in the Hunter alone are without power.
Technicians' focus is on ensuring the network is safe before resuming service, the company said about 8.15am.
Reader Jamie-Lee has sent through several photos of a tree that has demolished a car-port. Remember to stay safe - the State Emergency Service are inundated with calls and are prioritising life-threatening situations over property damage.
8.15AM: Newcastle City Council has postponed bin collections for 24 hours and closed Summerhill Waste Management Centre.
Beaches are closed, with foam streaking off the ocean and carried by strong winds.
Reader Chris O'Connor advises Lambton Road is shut southbound, and possibly northbound.
"There are trees blocking roads across the city, please avoid driving if possible," the council said in a statement.
8.10AM: The Newcastle to Stockton ferry is shut, with drivers urged to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary until conditions ease.
7.45AM: Readers are sending through images of fallen figs in Laman Street, flooded roads in Hinton and Wallsend. Industrial Drive is flooded near Grose Street and closed to light vehicles only in both directions. A metal sign is hindering eastbound traffic on Maitland Road at Hexham, while McCaffrey Drive is also closed at Rankin Park.
Is your street closed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
7.25AM: Two people are missing in floodwaters at Stroud as gale-force winds hamper the rescue mission, AAP reports.
Search and rescue teams are scouring waters around the rural town, while SES deputy commissioner Steven Pearce says there has been mobile phone contact with the pair but the phone battery appears to have died.
‘‘It is really mountainous country up there so the reception isn’t good at all,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s going to have to be line of sight to try and search for these people.’’
The strong winds are stopping helicopters from being used in the rescue mission, which will be conducted on land and on the water.
The east coast low is one of the state’s worst in the past two or three years, he said.
7.10AM: FALLEN trees, arcing power lines and roofing torn from its foundations have marked a sleepless night for thousands across the Hunter.
Garbage bins are strewn throughout inner city suburbs sheeted with water as rain continues to fall, with trees and roofing scattered around suburbs including Merewether and Wallsend.
The State Emergency Service has issued a plea to the public to stay patient as they are inundated with calls across NSW.
"We are currently receiving more jobs than we have phone lines," the statement said.
"Please be patient, jobs that are life critical are taking priority before storm damage jobs."
The Newcastle and Hunter train lines are both shut, with no indication when services will resume, while numerous businesses are electing to stay shut until the weather becomes safer.
Newcastle Airport has limited services, with anyone booked to fly on Tuesday urged to contact their airline directly to confirm details.
The University of Newcastle has also urged staff and non-residents to avoid the Callaghan, City and Ourimbah campuses.
An update from the university is scheduled for 11am.
Flooding is forecast on the Paterson and Williams rivers by midday, with major flooding predicted for Dungog around midday.
At 6.30am, the State Emergency Service advised up to 207 millimetres of rain had soaked parts of the Hunter in just over 24 hours.
"At this stage it is not possible to predict the flood peak because of uncertainty over how much more rain will fall," the Service said in its update.
At 5am, Ausgrid said more than 80,000 customers had lost power on the Hunter and Central Coast.
The NSW SES recommends the following actions:
As river levels continue to rise residents in low lying areas are likely to become
isolated and or inundated with flood waters – evacuations may become necessary.
Residents need to consider the consequences of potential flood impacts on their
homes, work and family commitments.
If your property is at risk of inundation, please raise moveable items, such as
furniture, as high as possible onto benches or tables, placing electrical items on top.
If you live in a low-lying area and are advised by an emergency services officer to
evacuate, please do so.
Secure outside belongings and before leaving; turn off the power, water and take
essential medicines and clothes with you.
The NSW SES advises:
Never drive ride or walk through floodwater
For emergency help in floods and storms, call the NSW SES on 132 500
NSW SES website: www.ses.nsw.gov.au FloodSafe website: www.floodsafe.com.au
Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasts and flood predictions including river height information are available at www.bom.gov.au