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.’