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August 16, 2022

Is the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation doing anything yet?

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Despite the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) being in operation for three weeks to lead the ‘long-term reconstruction of flood-impacted areas across the Northern Rivers, it appears nothing has been achieved so far, owing to staffing and an advisory board that is yet to be finalised.

The Department of Regional NSW replied to Echo questions around its legal requirements, KPIs and reports that the corporation will provide to the Department of Regional NSW and the Deputy Premier.

As previously reported, NRRC is a government-run corporation established by the premier, and exists without government committee oversight. A full rundown of its budget, including staffing wages, was also sought by The Echo.

A spokesperson for the Department told The Echo, ‘David Witherdin, who leads Public Works and the Soil Conservation Service, and was previously the Local Land Services CEO, is leading the corporation as Chief Executive’.

Cabbage Tree Island following the flooding. Photo ABC News, Rani Hayman

Recruitment underway

‘Recruitment is underway to fully staff the NRRC, and where work is already underway, staff and functions will be transferred from the relevant NSW Government departments. 

‘The NSW Government expects that the NRRC will have about 30 to 40 staff members, with private sector expertise brought on board as required.

‘The work of the corporation will be guided by an advisory board, made up of experts, community leaders and local residents.

‘The NRRC will 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 corporation will adhere to specific annual reporting requirements as a NSW Government Corporation, specific monthly corporate reporting requirements in relation to the Department of Regional NSW, and will be required to provide weekly operational updates to the Deputy Premier’s Office.

Flooding in Broadawater Place, West Ballina. Photo Nick Gazzard.

$300m initial budget

‘The NRRC has an initial budget of about $300 million, which incorporates funding for the Infrastructure Coordination Office, the Flood Property Assessment Program, water and wastewater system reconstruction, as well as riparian rehabilitation.

‘The Development Corporation was formed under the Growth Centres (Development Corporations) Act 1974, which was the required vehicle to cut through and deliver reconstruction with the scale, speed and agility that the Northern Rivers required’.

Roads across the region have been heavily impacted like this one in Tweed Shire. Photo supplied

Disaster capitalism

A SMH (Nine) report by Ben Cubby on July 24 highlighted that ‘catastrophe business’ is booming, and that ASX-listed Johns Lyng Group won the contract to manage the Flood Property Assessment Program for the government.

Cubby writes ‘It means a for-profit company now has the key roles of assessing damage, making repairs and recommending demolition of private homes’.

‘That sits uneasily with some who, five months on, are still living in the wreckage’.

Cubby’s article also profiled Lismore youth worker, Isaac Campbell, ‘whose home was recommended for demolition by Johns Lyng assessors’.

Campbell opted out of the assessment, says Cubby.

‘He got a second opinion from a structural engineer, who endorsed his decision not to demolish his home, and is now living in a caravan with his wife and two children and selling what possessions he has left to fund repairs himself’.

According to www.eurekareport.com.au, Johns Lyng Group CEO, Scott Didier, called his former business Trump Flooring after reading the The Art of the Deal in 1987.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s hope it is not the same old, same old…Liberal/National Party way.
    Outsource to private firm with some but not enough expertise, get ripped off and achieve nothing

  2. How much of the 300 million budget is expected
    as a wage cost? I’d say that there’s a ‘need to know’
    coming up.

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