The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) will come into existence from July 1.
So what is it, and how will it assist flood-affected residents across the region?
According to www.regional.nsw.gov.au/our-work/NRRC, it will manage ‘the rebuilding of these communities by coordinating planning, rebuilding and construction work across multiple government agencies’.
Seven local government areas (LGAs) will be assisted: Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Tweed and Kyogle.
According to www.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/northern-rivers-reconstruction, ‘The NRRC will have the power to work with councils to identify, prioritise and support projects that can rejuvenate communities within the Northern Rivers area, with a particular emphasis on housing and supporting social infrastructure’.
‘The new body will also have the power to compulsorily acquire or subdivide land, speed up and fast-track the building of new premises and accelerate delivery of planning proposals through the Department of Planning and Environment.
‘The insurance, construction and infrastructure sectors will be important contributors, alongside local government, industry, businesses and residents’.
In April, Lismore MP, Janelle Saffin, welcomed the government-run corporation announcement, and said, ‘The NRRC will be supported by a community advisory body made up of local representatives’.
Local Greens MP, Tamara Smith, says while there is the potential for the NRRC to be of great assistance to the north coast community, there is little to no information available around this organisation, such as its budget, staffing and terms of reference.
No accountability, transparency
She says, ‘This corporation is being established under the Department of the Premier, and as such, will not be legislated, nor will have the input of NSW parliament or any of the oversight bodies that ensure proper process and transparency’.
‘Resilience NSW, similarly, was created without legislation, or oversight by the premier.
‘Creating government-run corporations adds another layer of bureaucracy, and hopefully this one will work on the ground with the community, and not add unnecessary complexity to what are very urgent issues’.
As for how to move with urgency, Ms Smith suggests that the data collected by Service NSW with its flood grants is the best way to shape the policy and direct funds most efficiently.
‘I asked NRRC CEO, David Witherdin, whether Service NSW flood data can inform the response, but I am yet to receive a reply’.
‘What is needed is to provide councils with the resources to future-proof for floods, improve drainage, rebuild roads, and provide residents with options to raise their homes for free, or at a reduced cost, and be offered a buy-back scheme.
‘This is especially relevant to the Lismore, Wardell and Coraki areas; however, South Golden Beach, New Brighton, Ocean Shores, and Mullumbimby should also be included, along with parts of Ballina. The hinterlands should also be included, given the washed out roads, damaged homes and landslides.
‘I have been given assurance that the seven board positions that will lead this response will not be political, ie former mayors and politicians’, Ms Smith added.