The clamour over the proposed new emergency housing on rail land in Prince Street is to be expected. Resilience NSW is under no obligation to consult with our community in an effort to streamline and fast-track the process of providing housing for flood-affected residents.
Local councils were asked to provide a list of available sites controlled by council or State authorities and the State planning department determined which would proceed. Resilience NSW is responsible for preparing the site, installing the infrastructure and housing pods, and appointing a housing group to manage the project.
The community has been informed so there is some transparency, but we have no say in housing design or standards, layout or site selection. We’re expected to sit back, shut up and be grateful they’re doing something practical in response to the disaster. Apparently the community is the biggest obstacle hindering the path of our decision-makers.
It doesn’t help when the local editor says ‘it looks like Mullum will become a shanty town at its entrance’. Guess what? Many slick tourists think Mullum is already a shanty town, with rundown old buildings and full of disreputable characters; that’s it’s charm!
Why is public housing always seen as ramshackle, filled with low-life, messy untouchables, when this project will be housing local residents affected by the floods? Same people, just in different dwellings.
I also dispute the claim the Prince Street site was under 1.5m of floodwater. The northern end close to the river may have been, but the stretch opposite Woolies was about 30.48cm (1ft) under during the peak. Neither Woollies nor the Council offices were under water and the rail land is at the same height. Proposed homes will be above ground, which would limit the impact on neighbours.
We need housing and we need it quickly, setting up mobile home parks is the best available option and we can always improve the housing stock and layout further down the track.
It is insulting that our input has not been sought or welcomed by Resilience NSW or Byron Council – but this project isn’t nearly as ugly or unwelcome as the mega-wealthy’s building disasters we’ve endured in Byron Shire.