It is over six months since the February/March 2022 floods and the idea that there has been an effective response to house people who have been displaced by the floods has long passed. But the Kinglscliff housing-pod fiasco is merely representative of this failure with Resilience NSW stating that they are ‘anticipating’ that the emergency housing at Elrond Drive in Kingscliff (next to Storage King) will be ready to house people, ‘early 2023 – subject of course to a range of factors such as weather, availability of trades etc’.
Locals were sent a letter dated 21 June, after the fences went up at the site, telling them that the work was ‘expected to take approximately 35 days’ at the council-owned site. The site was expected to house approximately 96 people, who are unable to return home because of flood damage, in 34 pod units.
However, it quickly became apparent that there would be delays because it conflicted with a saltwater pipeline being laid through the site for a lobster farm 2km inland that had prior approval. It is understood that this was expected to delay the pod housing development for a few months at most.
A year too late
Local resident Angela Watson told The Echo that, ‘local residents immediately notified the State Government and the Council regarding the issues associated with the Elrond Drive location for the temporary flood housing, these concerns fell on deaf ears. It will be a year after the February 2022 floods before anyone is actually housed in the emergency temporary pods which is outrageous.
‘What an enormous waste of resources, both of money and the skilled labour required to construct these pods. These resources could have gone into permanent safe housing solutions in an appropriate location for those affected by the floods and the boarder community. By the time the temporary flood housing is actually utilised it will be time to remove it. An emergency response should not take a year,’ she said.
The NSW Government has leased the Elrond Drive site for three years ‘to provide a medium-term housing solution for residents displaced by the February-March flood event’ and ‘The temporary housing site is expected to be used by residents for around two years while they repair and rebuild,’ a spokesperson for Resilience NSW told The Echo.
‘The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRCC) has been established to support longer-term rehousing efforts,’ they explained.
More housing needed
Tweed Shire Council (TSC) General Manager Troy Green told The Echo that Council ‘has advocated strongly for, longer-term permanent solutions for the Tweed, such as Voluntary House Purchase (VHP) programs, land swaps or acquisition of units that can be added to the public housing pool.
‘Tweed has at least 200 people who require temporary accommodation as their homes are uninhabitable following the flood. These are Tweed residents who have lost their possessions and homes and have no immediate indication of when they can return.’
‘More permanent and secure housing solutions are an immediate priority for the community,’ said Ms Watson.
‘Residents support the need for permanent housing solutions and acknowledge and appreciate the ongoing advocacy from the local Council. The State Government and the NRCC see this as a long-term issue, but I believe that permanent housing is something we need now.’
Responding to questions from The Echo Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) said ‘We need to put a system in place so that emergency housing can be implemented immediately after a crisis, not 12 months later. Hopefully, there are a lot of learnings that come out of this.’
Ms Waston has highlighted the lack of transparency by the State Government regarding the pod development at the Elrond Drive site pointing out that with more effective community consultation they may have achieved faster and more effective outcomes that would have had people housed by now.
‘Transparent, accurate, and timely communication is essential for those affected by the floods and the broader community,’ Ms Watson told The Echo.
‘The State Government has kept the Kingscliff community in the dark regarding the establishment, construction, and ongoing progress of the temporary flood housing. There was no community consultation, no transparency and a lack of notice that this temporary housing project was about to commence. There has been no update on when those affected by the floods in our community will be able to move in and utilise the temporary housing, construction is delayed and it’s been six months since the floods.
‘We appreciate the need for the temporary housing to support those affected by the floods. I question what the State Government’s plan is to actively help people return to their homes or transition to permanent housing so our most vulnerable are not forgotten.’
‘This is a prime example of where the State Governments and local Councils need to communicate with each other and actively engage with the communities in which it operates to ensure the outcomes hit the mark,’ she said.
‘We know that there are more suitable sites for this temporary accommodation to be located particularly if the next flood is bigger than the last, this site will certainly be cut off and potentially impacted by flood water.’