Resilience NSW says it has engaged a team of design experts to ensure that the temporary pod village being built in central Mullumbimby to house flood victims is safe from flooding, and has stated that the pods themselves will be raised above flood levels.
But those living next to the pod village remain concerned, pointing out that they are yet to receive any assurances from the government that their homes will not be at greater risk of flooding as a result of the development.
The project will see 60 temporary housing pods, each with between one and four bedrooms, installed on a 2.5-hectare field on Station Street next to Woolworths.
In a letter sent to neighbours three days before preparatory construction works began last week, locals were told that the pod homes would have power, water and sewerage, and would be supported by a community housing provider.
However, the letter made no mention of whether the site had been assessed by engineers or hydrologists to determine whether it was appropriate for this type of development.
With residents receiving no other official communication about the site, a significant number became concerned about the flood-prone nature of the land, which was covered by around 1.5 metres of water during the February/March floods.
‘We understand that people need somewhere safe to live, but many of us are questioning whether this will actually be safe when the next flood comes,’ resident Rosie Bookallil said.
‘We haven’t been provided with any information about whether the project is flood-safe or not.
‘That includes whether it will create drainage and run-off issues that could threaten the surrounding homes as well as the pods.’
In a written response following repeated questioning by The Echo, a Resilience NSW spokesperson said the Mullumbimby site had been identified following a ‘comprehensive review’ of suitable land in the area led by the Department of Planning and Environment, and in consultation with Byron Council.
‘Flood safety is a priority,’ a Resilience NSW spokesperson said.
‘A detailed construction design is currently in progress, which will account for the flood prone nature of the land, and the most appropriate way of accommodating homes on site, based on expert advice and the input of a qualified multi-disciplinary design team.
‘It will include the raising of pods above flood levels.’
This week, Byron Council confirmed that the Station Street site was one of a number of areas that it had recommended to Resilience NSW as being suitable for temporary flood accommodation.
‘Council presented a range of sites and information to Resilience NSW including assessments on location, proximity to services, suitability etc,’ a Council spokesperson said.
‘Resilience NSW then identified its preferred sites.’
Byron Mayor, Michael Lyon, said that he understood neighbours’ concerns, but that the Station Street site had been earmarked for community projects for a long time, and he had ‘made no secret about Council’s desire to make use of that land’.
‘Our main concern at the moment is about how long the flood response is taking, particularly in terms of housing, and the distress being experienced by the people who’ve lost their homes,’ Councillor Lyon said. ‘In an emergency like this you need to get things going.’
But Ms Bookallil and many of her fellow neighbours say the comments leave many of their concerns unresolved.
‘There is still no indication as to whether they have investigated the potential impact on the surrounding homes, and what steps they’re taking to ensure those homes aren’t affected,’ she said.
‘Also, if they’re still undertaking the design process, why are there trucks out there right now laying down layers of dirt on the site?
‘And why hasn’t anyone spoken to us as part of this design process? There’s been no consultation whatsoever.’