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May 23, 2024

NSW Flood Inquiry released today

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet at the launch of the NSW Flood Inquiry report in Lismore today, 17 August.

The NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was in Lismore at Southern Cross University this morning at 11am releasing the NSW Independent Flood Inquiry where he accepted every recommendation put forward. The Flood Inquiry was led by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and Michael Fuller APM and released the day after the Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña ‘Alert’ warning of the potential for a third consecutive year of extreme rainfall and flooding.

There remain ‘over 1,000 people who are living out of their homes or are homeless as a result of these events,’ said the Premier.

‘We’ve accepted every recommendation. The focus of this government will be to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible.’

The recommendations come in in two parts, firstly on how emergency management evolves in NSW and secondly, how the state looks to prepare and recover from events of this scale both in the short term and the long term, and what the implications are for the state, explained the Premier. 

Emergency management

In relation to emergency management they are:

  • Establish a permanent State Emergency Operations Centre to be led by a new Deputy Police Commissioner in NSW.
  • Reshaping Resilience NSW into a leaner Recovery NSW that will focus on recovering for the first 100 days after a flood event.
  • Establishing a new Cabinet committee known as ‘Task Force Hawk’ made up of senior Cabinet ministers and public servants. It will be a permanent committee ready to respond to a major disaster at any time. 
  • Merging the back office of the RFS and SES. ‘There will be no change to front-facing RFS and SES,’ said the Premier. 
  • Community training – programs offering general members of the community training from the RFS and SES. 
  • That local communities are set up with knowledge and understanding of evacuation centres, recovery centres, and who is responsible for their set up and running. 
  • Planning

The second aspect relates to planning and the future:

  • Establishing a permanent Reconstruction Authority. It will be a legislative body with legislative power based on the Queensland model. 
  • Disaster adaptation plans to be put in place. In particular, these relate to buyback and land swap schemes. ‘This is about local and regional solutions,’ said the Premier.
  • EOI will be started by end of August for areas of both public and private land that can be made available for land swaps and buyback schemes.
  • A commitment that development in future areas will not be subject to flooding. 
  • ‘We need to rebuild in a resilient way that keeps the character and charm of these wonderful communities in the Northern Rivers,’ said the Premier. 

Professor Mary O’Kane at the launch of the NSW Flood Inquiry report in Lismore.

Three volumes

The Flood Inquiry comes in three volumes and Professor Mary O’Kane said that: ‘We don’t know enough how much was climate change… and the storms were well within the historic record. What was unusual was the intensity of the rain and the fact that the rain stalled, unfortunately above Lismore… We saw this again in the more recent floods in the Hawkesbury Nepean. There’s more work that has to be done on climate change but this is certainly something that we need to be on the lookout for.’ 

Professor O’Kane emphasised that they had looked at ‘the importance being prepared, and the community knowing what to look for. That we need better warning of things like flash flooding. We also emphasised the importance of kids knowing about things, and education in schools about how you respond to disasters.’

The report recommends that floodplains are not for living on, but that they should ‘come back into public ownership’ with as little key infrastructure as possible being placed on floodplains. 

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin at the launch of the NSW Flood Inquiry in Lismore.

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin speaking on behalf of local members said, ‘We’ve been through a lot of floods, bushfires, covid – we’ve seen a lot of reports but we haven’t always seen them implemented. This is the one that is going to change how we adapt, become a model of adaptation, how we respond to disasters and how we as a community are integrated into that response.’

‘Some will happen immediately, others will take time.’

Premier Perrottet confirmed that the buyback scheme would be based on house prices before the floods, but said they were still working on the criteria of the scheme. 

‘In relation to land swaps and buybacks I want to have that criteria finalised as quickly as possible,’ he explained. 

‘David Witherdin will commence an EOI [expressions of interest process] for land owners at the end of August so we can determine where land may be available.’

You can watch the full media event on the ABC here


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  1. Unsurprisingly, this report does little to truly acknowledge and build on the excellent work done from the grassroots. Along with the bit of police power-grabbing at the start of the press conference, I’m unimpressed. We need a community-led recovery, not this top-down, patronising re-assertion of hierarchy. And we need to have environmental care placed in the absolute centre of everything we do. The floods and fires are telling us something and we have to wake up and take the message NOW.

  2. Regarding the floods & floodplains . . . we are
    more than fortunate in having Janelle Saffin
    doing her ‘taking care of business’ through
    rain , hale or shine.

  3. So …… the answer is , combine SES and RFS , both of which have proved incompetent, in the floods and the fires .
    Although these groups have had extraordinary levels of funding they are not fit for purpose, resulting in the need for citizens to take matters into their own hands .
    So what will be achieved by amalgamating these total failures of public policy ?
    Perhaps, now that we combine these two failed organisations , maybe, the NSW Government will be able to step up coal-mining and fracking for gas EXPORTS.

    The stupidity and arguably illegal machinations of this government are unfathomable , secret and have no forward planning nor inkling or a way forward in face of the effects of the global weather catastrophes, that their policies are largely responsible for.

    Pair o’tits on a bull ! G”)

  4. I spent the last 7 months getting my house to a livable, maybe saleable condition, and now they announce a buyback.
    Its taken all my savings, all my time and i have sacrificed my health to try and get this house sellable. I hope they also take the current conditions of the houses into consideration, otherwise i should have left it gutted.

  5. It was a private decision, indeed a private gamble given Lismore’s history, to pay exorbitant speculative prices to buy a property in the Lismore floodplain.

    The money saved on not paying insurance was pocketed by many of these people where others have to pay insurance premiums.

    Now the gamble has failed, but the situation is still one of private decisions and consequences.

    It is immoral for these people to expect taxpayers to pay for the government to pay out these people for the losses they risked, and subsequently realised, while spending what others spend on insuring houses in sensible places. Even more immoral to expect the taxpayer to pay those ridiculous speculative property values that people – only unwise people – were willing to pay before this flood.

    The taxpayers’ money should not be spent on buying these people new houses.

    It should be spent on social housing, made available in accordance with normal prioritisation processes

    • “immoral”

      What, for the government to pinch the floodplain land off the indigenous? then sell it to tax payers? charge them stamp duty in the process? and then council rates every year?

      and then expect to walk away from any responsibility?

      I think not and I also think you may have confused wisdom with money.

      Most knew the risks and the reality is, if they had greater financial capacity, they would have been able to consider purchasing a home in a flood free area.

      • Steve there were loads of cheaper houses in the Northern Rivers than what people paid for houses in the swamp at Lismore, apart from a short period after the 2017 flood perhaps.

        People chose to take the risk for proximity.

        It is immoral to take such a risk and then expect others to bail you out of the inevitable consequences

      • Plus…I did not say government should walk away – just that the taxpayer should not have to buy houses for people, which is what paying inflated pre-flood house prices amounts to.

        Government responsibility belongs at land buy-backs

        • If the land was mis-represented when they bought it then it’s fraud and the sale should be reversed. If not then ‘They knew damn well it was a snake before they took it in.’

      • Look Liz, I’m disagreeing with Steve_O

        The Aboriginals didn’t pay for the land, they stole it from the native animals then ate them. Humans are from Africa aren’t we?
        Land grants were essentially given away as it was hard to find people that were willing to do all the work required to make the place livable and useful.
        Your also placing responsibly on the government like it’s a person instead of an organisation, or in this case, a series of organisations that have existed over time.
        Stamp duty and council rates were implemented to stop people buying up lots of land and sitting on it at zero cost while providing funding for things like access and defense services for that land (roads and cops).

        And finally, your statement ‘if they had greater financial capacity’ is the key. They still own the crap land, they could rebuild on that crap land. If the government is going to take that property right away from them, then they should be compensated for that, but I don’t want my tax dollars being spent to buy land rights to crap land. They can sell their land to eco-nuts that want to return it to swamp scrub.

        And Shane, ‘Social Housing’ aka ‘The Projects’ aka ‘The Estates’ has been tried around the world. If concentrated it makes slums, if distributed it wrecks existing neighbourhoods. It’s also the gateway to ‘Compact Smart Cities’. Cut the money printing and tax incentives then suddenly, like magic, houses will appear on the market at affordable prices.
        The answer to government interference with markets isn’t to have government interfere more. It’s becomes an endless cycle of wealth redistribution. There are already more good houses than there are people to live in them.

        Take a photo Liz, it won’t happen often. Just my ‘Autistic Libertarian priors’ shining through.

        • I like the way you think Christian! Now I’m considering if fauna stole from flora 🙂

          Either way, my empathy is magnified with a disclosed bias towards the good people of Lismore.

          The levy for example likely made the most recent flooding worse.

          We now await the CSIRO findings and report.

  6. A couple of years before the 2017 flood, a friend suggested I buy a ‘renovators dream’ in North Lismore. If I’d shared it with a few housemates I could have  managed the repayments. I thought ‘Gee I’ve always wanted my own place’ but after a bit I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of buying on a flood plain.

     I made the difficult decision that it wouldn’t be wise. Insurance there is expensive or unavailable – for a reason, I thought – it reflects the high risk. Isn’t it common sense that insurance reflects risk?

     I’d just have to continue renting, scrimping and saving. Years later, I was nearly there but then the Covid price increases hit.

    I believe some compensation is due to long term residents as council planning decisions  failed them and the risk has increased over the decades but should, for example, someone who purchased on the flood plain after the 2017 flood be offered the full inflated 2021 price? Why should tax payers pay for their gamble?

     Wouldn’t it be fairer to all homeless and struggling people for the government to seriously invest in social housing ? We have systems in place to assess genuine need. Why should people who have been waiting for social housing longest be put at the end of the queue?

    • Another victim of government money printing. It’s doesn’t just cause inflation, it goes straight into asset prices. The price of not allowing 2008 to rationalise our financial system was to create an ‘Everything bubble’ that, among other things, has priced people out of housing. I truly do feel for you, your responsible and there should be a payoff for that.


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