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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Destroyed flood-risk homes ‘not replaceable’

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Homes in leafy Bailie Street in Lismore have been identified as being in an extreme flood risk area and under a new flood risk plan, would not be able to be replaced if destroyed.
Homes in leafy Wotherspoon Street in Lismore have been identified as being in an extreme flood risk area and, under a new flood risk plan, would not be able to be replaced if destroyed.

Photo and story Melissa Hargraves

Lismore homeowners in flood-prone areas will not be able to replace their dwellings if they burn down, under a new plan set to go on public exhibition.

The Draft Floodplain Risk Management has raised the ire of one councillor who says Lismore City Council (LCC) has no right to prevent the homeowners whose dwellings are in areas identified as extreme risk of flood from replacing them.

Cr Greg Bennett also says that funding is not available for the proposed voluntary house purchase scheme for the flood-prone area and the plan should not be approved until the issue is clarified.

‘Most of these houses were built before development controls have been placed on them,’ Cr Bennett told council last week.

He asked council’s strategic planning coordinator Paula Newman if council would compensate these home owners if their homes burnt down.

‘On the face of it, no, but the proposal is that the restriction particularly applies where the high priority dwellings for house purchase have been nominated, that is Baillie Street, Wotherspoon Street and one in Winterton Parade,’ Ms Newman said.

‘The aim would be that they would be identified as potential acquisition properties, initially voluntarily,’ she said.

‘Under that policy, if the house did burn down we would not allow them to rebuild it.

‘However, one of our issues at the moment is that state policy on voluntary acquisition is that we cannot purchase vacant land. We are in the process of asking the state government to change that.

‘Council may be able to obtain funding for this, but at the moment no funds are set aside if their house burns down,’ Ms Newman said.

Cr Glenys Ritchie asked whether there was a strategic financial plan to voluntarily purchase these properties.

‘No plan has been put together for this yet,’ Ms Newman said.

‘Council last purchased a house in 2003,’ she said.

Ms Newman emphasised that the plan was not a financial risk plan, but a flood management one.

‘If we get feedback that this won’t work, then we will come back to a council workshop before it is adopted and discuss the real financial implications,’ she said.

Cr Bennett said that generally the plan was good but he ‘could not support a plan that took rights away from ratepayers and leaves them in limbo.

‘They can’t replace their houses on their own land. This is not good enough, so for that reason I cannot support it,’ he said.

Cr Bennett asked his fellow councillors to show empathy for the house owners.

‘Imagine if this was your house in this situation,’ he said. ‘We need to either make a policy that we will definitely purchase it if an event occurs or we need to remove it from the document.

‘The value of these houses will be further devalued from this plan as you cannot rebuild on them,’ he said.

Even though there is no funding currently available, Cr Isaac Smith said there was an option.

‘If I recall the sale of the Lismore Club should go back to flood mitigation,’ Cr Smith said, ‘so if and when that sale occurs, that funding could help us purchase these houses’.

He said the ‘voluntary acquisition plan should begin and that there had been no fires on Wotherspoon or Bailey Streets for 30 years so there are no houses about to imminently crumble down’.

Cr Simon Clough said he saw it as a ‘very difficult situation’.

Cr Clough also mentioned the risk by rescue services that in a flood crisis ‘will have to voluntarily put their lives on the line to rescue people in extreme flood zones.

‘We can’t take these things out of context. We need to voluntarily acquire these houses,’ he said.

Cr Clough said there were only ‘16 houses that need purchasing and they weren’t worth a whole lot of money’.

Cr Bennett told Echonetdaily ‘that number is only what has been identified for acquisition, there are more on top of that’.

Cr Clough acknowledged the culmination of four years of hard work putting together the report and congratulated Ms Newman, particularly because ‘she has not done floodplain management before.

‘She was brave enough to take on peer review which helped the report significantly,’ he said.

‘I would also like to thank the community representatives who gave a lot of time and effort over those years,’ Cr Clough said.

‘A whole range of people have shown an extraordinary commitment to this who will be thanked by a letter from council.’

Cr Clough said he was pleased that the report took climate change into account.

‘This is important in this community as we have not seen significant floods since 1989.’

Cr Clough said the proposal to take out part of the meander behind the Bunning’s site ‘will have significant impacts for a small cost.

‘This will mean the levee will be 100mm higher. When we remove more of that meander soil the levee will become higher still,’ he said.



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  1. About time this happened.

    I suggest council should limit any compensation payments on the basis of means (ie. means testing the compensation payments with a reasonable threshold – maybe something like the median price for house and land outside the floodplain).

    I also suggest the council should limit compensation payments so no-one who has purchased any of these houses since the 1974 flood can receive compensation payments for their house block no longer being able to be rebuilt upon. Make people responsible for their own decisions.

    • EcoLand Manager – As a owner of a house in the proposed flood plan area who purchased after 1974 I think you are highly disrespectful to me and the other owners in this new proposed High Risk Flood plan. Its been fine for the government to allow the sale to take place, collect the Stamp Duty and for the council to take rate payments for almost 40 years…not to mention Land Tax for those who are forced to pay. Bush fires claim way more homes than floods – are you going to propose that those people who build a home near bushland since Ash Wednesday in 1983 have also made irresponsible decisions!!!!

      You might also need to be reminded that the flood levee build to protect Lismore CBD by the Lismore Council, diverts more flood water into north and south Lismore exactly where this proposed flood risk plan is. Compensation must take place! Our insurance will go through the roof and the house values through the floor! Imagine if this was your house that you lived in for 30 years and survived many a floor at no risk to anyone else’s life!

      A bit of advice – Life is easier when you consider things from another point of view!

  2. I imagine that these residents bought their houses in good faith. Council needs to look after them. There had previously been no suggestion that they were only buying the useless land that the houses stood on.


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