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Byron Shire
March 3, 2024

Post-flood housing options for Lismore

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Many Lismore residents who have flood-affected homes are waiting under a big question mark to see if and when they can move back in. Janelle Saffin MP says we need to look at innovative approaches to reconstruction in the aftermath of this natural disaster.

Ms Saffin says every day people are coming to her with information and suggestions about rebuilding after floods, building better, flood-resistant, about land buybacks and relocation.

‘There are so many possibilities up for consideration, including programs that already exist in other parts of Australia. For example, there is the Northern Australia Cyclone Reinsurance Pool, which is a way of providing affordable insurance to people in cyclone-affected areas, and is backed by a $10billion Commonwealth guarantee.’

Ms Saffin says she has called on the NSW Treasurer to start talking to the Commonwealth about a scheme like this for the Northern Rivers.

ACT government buy-back

‘There is also the example of the ACT government buy-back of more than a thousand homes deemed uninhabitable due to contamination from loose asbestos.

‘There are similarities between the ACT asbestos crisis of 2014 and this flood. In both there were more than a thousand homes made uninhabitable overnight, with little or no insurance cover for rebuilding, leaving people with immediate housing needs while under acute financial stress.’

Ms Saffin said the ACT solution offered a quick buyback of the property at the value before the event, so owners were able to settle mortgage debts and move towards rental or another purchase.

‘There was a stamp duty waiver to help owners buy another property. The Government was able to clear blocks in bulk and resell the land.

Land could be repurposed

‘In the case of Lismore this could be land for community facilities, flood mitigation, or flood adapted housing.

‘There are many considerations of course and this is early days, but we need to look at what is possible and how we can rebuild our communities smarter.’

Ms Saffin says she has called for a Reconstruction Commission to be established to look at all aspects of rebuilding and restoring communities across the Northern Rivers in the aftermath of this disaster, including the physical, financial, emotional and environmental. ‘This would provide a single point of focus and command, not another department, to have a chain of command across all government agencies.

‘We need disaster assistance to extend to business across our various sectors and farmers as they will need a hand up beyond what has been offered so far.’


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19 COMMENTS

  1. Look, It was weeks ago now that this question of Lismore was debated on ABC TV by one of the local Councillors and the question came up years ago after the 2017 flood. They disgussed and disgussed and disgussed the flood levee until it was disgusting, whether to raise the flood levees. The decision they took was to NOT raise the flood levees. They decided NOT to raise them, and what happened? Along came the 2022 floods and wiped them out.
    Now the first sentence here is: “Many Lismore residents who have flood-affected homes are waiting under a big question mark to see if and when they can move back in.”
    Now on ABC radio this morning was a statement. That the Flood levees would have to be raised by an ENORMOUS amount. The emphasis was put on the word ENORMOUS. Well why don’t they raise the flood levees by an ENORMOUS amount instead of doing noing and looking at the problem. Just why don’t they do that instead of looking at the problem and saying “Dear me?”
    Over in the USA on the delta of the Mississippi the city of New Orleans is built. It is a walled city and that wall holds back the Carrabean Sea. The only thing that has topped it so far has been Tornado Katrina.
    Anyone would think Lismore had a problem. Anyone would? You only have a problem when you do nothing and just look at it and say “Dear me?”
    What Lismore needs is for the present population to be moved out and put into the town some active thinking people people who will take some action and get things done.

    • Do you consider what would happen downstream to if this enormous levy is built. Bye bye Coaraki Woodburn, Broadwater etc as the water speeds down the river.

  2. This is a sorry situation, but Janelle Saffin getting in the ear of future PM Albo about a relocation plan would seem Lismores only hope at this point.

    The current state and federal conservative government have no plan but to rebuild as we were for now (absolute madness) and conduct a study of flood mitigation options that will take 2 years. By then Lismore will be finished . But for them they aren’t about to spend $500m or so on a long term potentially controversial reconstruction of Lismore on the plateau, as the politics say this is a safe National party seat federally. That is the basic calculation to them, they will spend the millions / billions on marginal seats elsewhere.

    So its on the people of Lismore to be smart enough to see what the $10m CSIRO study is, its a can kick down the road to get past the federal election. The time to propose the proper relocation plan is right now while the whole country is looking this way, but conservatives at every level have shown this is way beyond them. The mayor has in fact ruled out relocation as an option!

    We need Albo to step up.

  3. Albo does need to step up & stand tall, Fred. Any other way is self harm here while ScoMo
    pretends he is doing something.

  4. Unlike cyclones, it is known where floods will go and where they don’t. That is why no-one is talking about moving houses to avoid cyclones, and why they need a cyclone reinsurance scheme to support the northern communities.

    Here this immoral proposal by the Greens and Janelle Saffin is to force taxpayers to pay to bail out people who bought houses in a floodplain, when it was always known that these floodplains are the (only) places riverine flooding occurs – people who paid their house insurance (in a commercial, not “affordable” public, insurance industry) are being expected to pay for those who didn’t take out insurance (or did but did not pay for flood insurance, which was available and priced appropriate to risk level).

    It is disgustingly divisive

    • Maybe Shane they can’t afford to live anywhere else or afford the huge cost of flood insurance. They certainly won’t be able to afford to move now as the land is pretty well worthless unless there is a morally just decision to buy back this land. Isn’t that why we pay taxes?

      • Rod, people made choices; bad ones.

        There is a whole rest of Australia to live in beyond the Lismore floodplain. Including hills right near Lismore.

        My place is worth about the same as people paid for a house in Lismore; I made a diffetent choice. Others can too.

    • Shane it is –
      Immoral that Local and State Planning authorities allow building and then re-building on floodplains after repeated flood events.
      Immoral that in the process they then happily collect the $’s of land rates and stamp duties.

      Land buybacks by Sate and Local Government and Land swaps arrangements will need to be explored.
      Grantham, QLD offered and did landswaps for their residents in response to devastating Lockyer Valley flood event 2011.

      On Insurance, it is business, private enterprise pricing risk.
      High risk carries High premium for insurance cover.
      Insurance companies are in business and in business to make a profit. The worm tuned long ago, away from Government owned Insurance companies.

  5. Build Tiny houses that can be wheeled out to higher ground when need.You can add them together to extend as need and use eco
    own waste self disposal system until toilet facilities/showers supplied.Community garden,solar installed free by gvt..Goats for milk.
    Create jobs.Solve homelessness .Pool village human resources.Gvt give free housing for psych workers and tutors and cooks and a large
    communty eating area rostered for all to help in.Gvt build kit homes asap out of flood zone asap.Lend Lease can build a communty village
    asap and time for big companies to give back to Australians in kind.Our Billionares could have a nice ‘plaque’ to be revered in history as
    helpful heroes…..if ego is your thing???

  6. What a shame, the council is just in the process of gifting the largest undeveloped flood-free land in the area, to alleviate some misdirected sense of guilt over British colonisation two hundred years ago.
    Trust the Lismore Council to fail AGAIN !
    Cheers, G”)

  7. Land swaps & or buy-backs it’s got to be along with well raised flood
    levees. We’ve got to stop dragging the chains & change.

  8. 2cents….how about…reclaiming land from cow slaughter industry and build sustainable eco dwellings….thereby reducing methane emissions.To protect the citizens we make it drug,alcohol and meat free…Spend our days growing food and practising our sadhana in alignment with the laws of karma.Anything less is just a band aid…things happen for a reason,good opportunity to get it right!

  9. Rod, people made choices; bad ones.

    There is a whole rest of Australia to live in beyond the Lismore floodplain. Including hills right near Lismore.

    My place is worth about the same as people paid for a house in Lismore; I made a diffetent choice. Others can too.

    • To Shane Adams – Victim blaming at its best. It’s obvious how ignorant and misinformed your opinions are. If it was so affordable to live in the hills in Lismore, don’t you think everyone would have been doing that? As someone who just lost their home in the recent flooding, let me educate you. My husband and I are from Lismore and we both have all our family here. Living here is not only essential to our sense of community, but essential in assisting us to be able to work, as our infant daughter is cared for by our family members. To that point, we are both employed in this town as healthcare workers. Taking this into account, almost, if not half, of the available housing in Lismore is in flood prone areas, what options do you think people have for housing, if they, like me were lucky enough to get their job in the first place, in the town where they have support from family? How do you expect facilities, such as the hospital, to be able to function and have the required staff to support this community if there is nowhere to live?

      When we were searching for our house in 2019, our borrowing capacity was such that we could only afford flood prone properties. Usually, these properties, lifted above the 1974 flood level, do not have water inside the living area. This time was different, unexpected, and left thousands of people unprepared due to misinformation by authorities that the water levels ‘could never get that high.’

      Saying people deserved this because they bought in the area is disgusting and lacks a sense of empathy for other human beings who are displaced, homesick and suffering in this time. I don’t know where you live, but there are not many places in Australia that are not prone to some type of natural disaster now or in the future. These events have shown that nobody knows what will happen. When and if you or your family, friends or community are affected by a natural disaster where you nearly lose or have lost your loved ones, I know I will send my support to you. Because that’s what decent human beings do for each other.

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