Up to 180 locals who lost their homes in the floods will move into temporary ‘pod homes’ on rail corridor land close to the centre of Mullumbimby.
But concerns have been raised about the flood-prone nature of the site, and an apparent lack of transparency from the State Government in planning the project.
Residents on Prince Street, Mullumbimby received letters last Friday (July 8) from Resilience NSW informing them that around 60 modular homes, each with between one and four bedrooms, would be located on the 2.5 hectare field next to Woolworths.
Construction fences started going up three days later, and site preparation works are set to begin almost immediately.
The pod village will have power, water and sewerage, and will be supported by a community housing provider that will provide security and support for the residents and ensure that rules and agreements for the site are adhered to.
’The NSW Government is committed to supporting people impacted by the recent floods every step of the way,’ local residents were told in the letter.
‘These housing units will be located at the site for up to two years, depending on housing needs, to ensure flood-affected residents have time to finalise their long-term housing solutions.’
But a significant number of residents oppose the project, saying the land in question is subject to flooding.
‘In any significant rain event, like a torrential downpour, that field is a mud pit,’ said one Prince Street resident who asked to remain anonymous.
‘In the February-March floods that land would have been close to 1.5 metres under water.’
The resident said that this posed a risk, not only to those living in the pod village, but also to nearby homes.
’When you build on a flood prone site it has an impact on the surrounding area, even if it’s a relatively small development’ the resident said.
‘Some of our homes on Prince Street were centimetres away from being flooded and there were homes just down the road that went under completely.’
When questioned about this concern, Resilience NSW did not provide any formal comment.
However, The Echo understands that the site was identified following a review of suitable land in the area led by the NSW Department of Planning and in consultation with Byron Council.
Residents are also concerned about the process which led to the selection of the site and the seemingly sudden commencement of the project.
There was no consultation with neighbours, and the State Government did not obtain formal approval from Byron Council to develop the site.
This lack of Council approval was made possible by the fact that the land in question is owned by a State Government-owned corporation, the Transport Asset Holding Entity. Thus the State Government is effectively leasing the land to itself and as both the applicant and the approval authority.
‘I find it astonishing that they didn’t have to get Council approval for this,’ the Prince Street resident said.
‘They’ve basically just decided to drop this in the middle of Mullumbimby. We understand that people need somewhere to live, but I just don’t think this has really been thought through.’
Resilience NSW also declined to provide any formal comment in relation to the issue of consultation and transparency.
Update: This story was updated to include a response from Resilience NSW on Tuesday, July 12 at 2.30pm.