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July 2, 2022

Tweed Mayor calls for expansion of voluntary house raising and purchase

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The NSW Upper House Select Committee on the Response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022 met in Murwillumbah yesterday and Mayor of Tweed Chris Cherry (Independent) has called for the immediate expansion of the Voluntary House Raising and Voluntary House Purchase schemes. 

Cr Cherry said an urgent expansion of the NSW Government’s voluntary house raising and voluntary house purchasing programs was required to provide certainty to residents affected by the recent flood.

‘The only way we are really going to move forward is to get people out of the flood plain and out of risk,’ Cr Cherry told the members of the committee.

‘We are desperately asking for the Voluntary House Raising and Voluntary House Purchase programs to be given significant funding – and immediately.

‘The time is now, people are making decisions now whether to reinvest in their properties or not. We are calling for urgent consideration from government on this.’

Cr Cherry made her comments as she tabled Council’s submission to the separate NSW Independent Flood Inquiry 2022, which was unanimously endorsed at the last Council meeting.

‘There has been an incredible amount of work that’s gone into that submission. We are very proud of that submission from staff,’ she told the previous Council meeting prior to the approval of the Council’s flood submission.  

It identifies a ‘Review and update the forecast and warning systems. We’ve heard that loud and clear the need for that,’ she said. 

‘There is a proposal to beef up SES; to merge SES, RFS and Fire and Rescue into one emergency response agency that works with police and provide paid personnel for that kind of an agency. I think that is a really positive recommendation. 

‘We are asking them to make sure we have backup systems for communications and electricity networks so that we can really not have the situation that we had. It was incredibly hard… It made is so much harder not to have communication and power during the flood. We are also wanting to have deployable community communication hubs that can be sent out and located in hubs when they are needed. That would have been incredibly great for some of those outlying communities, Byrill Creek, Uki, Burringbar and many of those people isolated.’

Members of the NSW Upper House Select Committee on the Response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022 travelled to Murwillumbah to meet with the community this week. Photo supplied

No more politicking with disaster relief

Cr Cherry put particular emphasis on the need for fair and equitable distribution of grants in a timely manner. One can only assume that this is following on from the well-publicised accusations of former prime minister Scott Morrison announcing disaster flood relief measures in conservative-held seats significantly ahead of other seats which also led to the resignation of Liberal senator Catherine Cusack

‘Can we please coordinate the disaster response grants that come out. There are so many coming out all at once and it is very hard having that coming as separate announcements, it takes a lot of time and effort to be on top of that. If we could have a consolidated announcement that would be a lot better,’ said Cr Cherry. 

‘We are asking that the Commonwealth and State government funding that gets announced straight away after an event needs to happen in that first 24 hours. As soon as the area has a natural disaster declaration, we need that funding within 24 hours and we need it to be equally distributed to all areas that are in a declared zone. I don’t think any of us want to ever see the uncertainty that our community went through after this flood again.’

Other areas that were emphasised included planning reforms, and procurement in relation to quick response to repairing infrastructure such as roads and community preparedness. 

‘We have asked for a very big increase in acceleration of the voluntary housing raising a purchase program. We are wanting to use planning reforms to reduce the number of people living or having expensive assets in the flood-prone areas. I think that is really, really important for our future risk to flood,’ Cr Cherry explained to the previous council meeting. 

A copy of the Council’s full Flood Inquiry submission is published on the Flood Recovery Dashboard, accessed via a tab on Council’s webpage.

The report was strongly endorsed by the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association, during their presentation to the Upper House Select Committee.

Council is encouraging residents, businesses and community organisations in the Tweed to contribute to both the independent Flood Inquiry and the Upper House Select Committee.

The deadline for submissions to the independent Flood Inquiry has been extended to Friday 24 June 2022. For more information, visit www.nsw.gov.au/floodinquiry.

Submissions to the Upper House Select Committee have closed but responses to its online questionnaire are open until 30 June. For more details, visit www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/listofcommittees/Pages/committee-details.aspx?pk=277.

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  1. The raising of houses in the main flood-areas has largely failed.[EG South Lismore, where one house was raised to near the level of the railway embankment with 18m of steps, but still flooded over the roof.]
    If anything, marginal flood areas should be the main priority, where an extra 1M can make all the difference.
    Low-interest loans for this purpose would be far more effective than simply refurbishing existing flood-affected homes while waiting for it to happen all over again.


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