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April 15, 2024

Washed Away – The Planning failures deepening Australia’s Flood Crisis

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The recent ABC Four Corners program: Washed Away – The Planning failures deepening Australia’s Flood Crisis was a timely confirmation of the imperative debates surrounding housing for Australian communities on floodplains. It also confirmed facts that had circulated in NSW activist circles concerning the role of Minister Roberts of the NSW Department of Planning. 

Minister Roberts is a baptised rigid neo-liberal supporter. This ‘market’ ideology is a political stamp ensuring power and hubris in the NSW coalition government. There is no acknowledgement of sustainable responsibility to the biosphere. This was noticeable when resigning Minister Rob Stokes emphasised the need to address the latter. This revision of planning policy did not sit well within Mr Roberts’ political waters. It also has triggered hostile reactions in the ranks of neo-liberal developers to garner the profits from traditional economic rationalism (a capitalist profit ideology lacking tolerance to the rights of nature and democratic will of the people).

At a posh high-end luncheon funded by miffed neo-liberal developers Mr Roberts pronounced, ‘I hear you… I hear you’. Viewers also had the opportunity to hear him! The outstanding mantra in this herd of people is: ‘Wilful Ignorance’. Deny climate change and inappropriate development on floodplains. 

‘People need houses’ is a trope persistently associated with Minister Roberts.  Indeed, this was evident in the statement of neo-lib bureaucrat Tom Forrest who used ‘neo-lib speak’ as a defence: ‘We want no knee-jerk self-indulgent emotional statements’ – the old trope.

Several weeks ago Byron councillors had to endure a barrage of discontent by developers concerning the fees and charges which made ‘investing in Byron entirely unviable’. One sensed that a ‘booby trap’ had been laid before councillors. Indeed, totally unaware of the ecological struggle forming the history of Byron, developers promoted some lunatic economic ‘expert’ who theorised the inflated cost of a cup of coffee to approximating $160. Yet Paul Bibby writes (13 July) ‘an economic Health Check of the Shire found that building approvals grew significantly during COVID-19 from $100m in October 2020 to nearly $175m just one year later.’

We learn that ‘developers are not interested in building permanent housing for local people’. Of course not, quick turnover of development ensures greater profit!

Remedy: a moratorium on floodplain development, everything must change. 

Jo Faith, Newtown

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