Heavily redacted documents have been supplied in response to a freedom of information request by a Mullumbimby resident, who sought the information that Resilience NSW relied upon to justify creating emergency housing on flood-prone land in Prince Street.
The affected resident, who doesn’t want to be identified as they are fearful of reprisals, sought the information via a Government Information Public Access (GIPA) request. They told The Echo they were astonished at the secrecy and inaccurate information supplied.
The Echo has previously reported that Council supplied suggested locations in a secret agreement with Resilience NSW.
Major concerns were raised by Prince Street residents around the lack of any consultation or proof that the development won’t increase flooding. Large amounts of fill have already been imported, and this week the ‘pods’ have started to arrive onsite.
The resident told The Echo, ‘Apparently they refused to release some flood documents as they were of a technical nature, and they said it could be misinterpreted’.
‘They claimed it is not in the public interest! I have explained to them that this is patronising and offensive, as we have a flood hydrologist to consult with.
‘I have asked for my GIPA request to be reviewed’.
While plans supplied in the GIPA reply indicate pod housing next to the disused railway station, works there were recently removed without explanation.
Seventy-seven two-bedroom units will be tightly packed along the strip of railway land for up to five years – originally Resilience NSW and Council said two years.
Parking will be provided for each unit ‘within 3m separation’ while there will be communal toilets and laundry facilities.
Greens councillor and flood hydrologist, Duncan Dey, raised his concerns with the resident, and said that the ‘Site Selection Evaluation’ document ‘illustrates a huge flaw’.
‘On page 11, “Site 5” [Prince Street] gets a green tick, meaning it didn’t flood in 2022, and doesn’t flood in the 1 per cent Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) flood (ie the 1 in 100 year).
‘Both propositions are in error’.
‘The document doesn’t show how they got this info, nor its date applicable… but it’s wrong. The site did flood, and is flood-prone in a 1 per cent AEP flood’.
In another document, the Temporary Accommodation Study Draft Feasibility Site document states of Prince Street: ‘Entire site appears to have been impacted by the March 2022 floods’.
Cr Dey said, ‘The contradiction between documents demonstrates what happens when local knowledge is not sought or applied’.
A disclaimer on ‘Temporary Accommodation Study Draft Feasibility’ document also says, ‘We have not been provided with expert advice… including fire engineering and traffic engineering, compliance and access’.
And under ‘Agency Advice’, for the location, the document says it has, ‘In principle support for use for temporary housing and longer-term as affordable housing’.
Cr Dey says, ‘There is no resolution of Council on the matter of use of this land after the Temporary Accommodation. Placing affordable housing there may represent the personal preference of the Mayor, of other Councillors, or even of staff, but it is not a position of Council. No forward strategy has this site for that purpose’.
Within the documents obtained under GIPA, the Mullum Temporary Housing Options document says that, to address the flooding potential of the pod village, the Housing Recovery Taskforce agreed on May 19 to raise them ‘between 0.03m to 0.72m above ground level’.
Cr Dey added, ‘That height was then increased to between 0.8 and 1.5m. Finally, fill was chosen as the method of raising, but without a study or any investigation of potential flooding impacts on existing homes in the area’.
Mayor Michael Lyon has previously downplayed the potential for flooding on the site, and has distanced himself from any responsibly, despite being part of the secret site selection process.
In an email to a resident on August 24, he said ‘Most of the site had relatively minor flooding [in February/March]. This correlates with the fact that Woolworths didn’t flood’.
The resident supplied The Echo of photos of the entire area underwater at the time.
The resident asked, ‘How can he be running the show?’