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June 7, 2023

Mayor of Byron defends flood recovery meeting

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Mayor Simon Richardson speaking at the flood resilience meeting held in Mullumbimby last week. Photo supplied.
Mayor Simon Richardson speaking at the flood resilience meeting held in Mullumbimby last week. Photo supplied.

The recent flood recovery meeting held in Mullumbimby on May 11 received criticism from some locals who felt that it had been hijacked by Our Earth Online rather than dealing with the immediate needs of the community currently in crisis while others felt it successfully achieved its aims. 

Confusion arose as flood recovery meetings had been promised by council to local community members, particularly those in badly affected areas such as Billinudgel, to directly address the issues arising from the recent flooding. 

Following the meeting local business owner Rebecca Brewin from BiIlli Auto spoke to the mayor, Simon Richardson, highlighting the need for more direct and immediate action that is needed in the community.  

‘He told us that he knew that there would be two different groups of people that would attend the meeting, and conceded it was the incorrect format.

‘I emailed Simon the next morning and he said he was happy to arrange a meeting within a month. 

‘I replied further to reiterate the need for urgency when scheduling the meeting as six weeks have already past,’ continued Rebecca.

Questions surrounding council responsibility for flood mitigation, flood planning and warning and the role of the SES are some of the issues that Billinudgel residents and businesses have requested council respond to. 

‘We had complied a document with questions pertaining to Council’s obligation to its constituents in regard to its Flood Plain Management studies with the aim of council fulfilling its obligation and duty of care to those in not only our area but within the shire that Simon says he will address at the meeting that is to be advised,’ continued Rebecca.

Mayors response

Simon Richardson has said he had raised concerns with One Earth Online prior to the meeting about possible confusion as to the purpose of the meeting. 

‘What was meant to be a meeting about resilience with a flood event reference seemed to be increasingly advertised as a flood debrief. This caused confusion and some disappointment. The organisers meant well and this mistake was certainly not deliberate by them,’ he said.

‘For many residents of Billinudgel, they were expecting a far more detailed look into Council’s responses and I have undertaken to hold a public meeting in the very near future in the Billinudgel area to do exactly that.’

Richardson said that ‘I support the ideas behind the our earth project and have attended a few meetings, however, am not directly involved.

‘The meeting was conceived by Our Earth. Council was requested to help with paying for the hall and providing some nibbles etc-which we did. We do this for many groups.

‘By the end of the night, many great ideas as to ways our community can become more resilient were shared and I look forward to beginning the process of developing these further.’

Organiser response

Organiser Christopher Dean acknowledged that there were some people attending that had expected a different agenda and format.

‘We understand the level of emotion and disillusionment by many who felt neglected and unheard,’ said Dean.

‘Unfortunately this meeting was not designed to deal with this directly. It was clear that one outcome we must focus on is better management for those seriously traumatised by the flood to have effective support, help and counselling as well as practical aid administered fast.’

Around 75 people attended the meeting and Dean felt positive that they had fulfilled the objectives of the meeting.

‘A key theme that came through often was the need for solidarity and close relations between neighbours so that best local ideas could be acted upon rapidly,’ continued Dean. 

‘Best information gathered on the spot and over the years could be shared with the media and professionals in real time to keep local issues accurate and up to date. Community solidarity was at the heart of resilience planning.’

See also: Current position of flood funding in Byron Shire

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    • There is no formal membership of OurEarth Council and people interested to help us are welcomed to be part of an advisory group. Perhaps the word “counsel” would better apply – ie offer wisdom and advice to help us further the aims of OurEarth. Simon, has no formal position and gets no reward from offering his assistance here which is done in a purely voluntary capacity and deserves appreciation and respect. He like all of us recognises that the organisation exists simply to help all in our community function better in a better managed planet..

  1. The OE Council has authority to act in the spirit of this charter.
    Next pictures of said council, Simon Richardson is there, so what is it Simon.

  2. We have collected more than 160 excellent suggestions for building better community resilience from those who attended this meeting. Our volunteers are collating them to share with all who came and others in our region and beyond that could benefit from these insights. There are a huge number of things we could all do better to build a more resilient community for all…and this is a very good first step. Thanks to all the many who came, stayed for over 4 hours and worked tirelessly to share good ideas. The couple from Billinudgel who misconstrued the purpose of the meeting and wanted to just attack the council and organisers and left halfway without contributing have at least woken the rest up to the need for a special meeting to deal with their immediate needs. This adds to our list of issues indeed. It in no way invalidates what we have begun.We are looking long into the future as climate change brings its effects to our homes…

  3. 1. Echo your article could have been less biased. A simple google search on the Earth council would have revealed Simon Richardson to be a board member. That is clearly a conflict of interest at best and should have raised questions in the mind of your journalist and highlighted in the article.

    2. The Mayor and BSC need to take responsibility to address the shires flood plan for the future. I don’t see a need for a third party to be involved ie;Earth council.

    3. It should be a matter of the council staff led by Simon Richardson to:-
    Gathering people’s concerns
    Addressing those concerns
    Publishing what actions have been taken and what will be done in the future and by whom when floods happen and putting this on public display in Libaries etc and online for the shires feedback and comment.


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