The New South Wales Government website says that the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) leads and coordinates reconstruction activities for essential assets, infrastructure and housing in the Northern Rivers.
On Tuesday Councillor Adam Guise proposed that Lismore Council negotiate with the NRRC to acquire suitably identified land for housing, and prioritise such lands to be developed as social and affordable housing, supporting relocation for flood-impacted residents.
Cr Guise noted that Lismore Council is intending to rezone farmland to residential as part of its revised Growth & Realignment Management Strategy (GMS), under the premise of providing flood-free housing. This includes the plan to quadruple the size of The Channon village, double the size of Bexhill, double the size of Clunes, triple the size of Caniaba, double the size of Wyrallah, spread eastwards beyond the ‘pink line’ of Lismore’s outskirts, and expand Modanville and Tullera.
‘Rezoning land from RU1 agricultural to R1 housing exponentially increases the value of the land… for the landowner and developer,’ he said.
‘The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (which will become the permanent NSW Reconstruction Authority- NSWRA) already has the power to acquire land on just terms. It could, acting in the public interest, acquire such lands identified in the GMS as future housing before the land is rezoned to residential, saving taxpayers and ratepayers millions of dollars.
‘Acquiring the land after rezoning, or leaving it to the private market to develop, would significantly enrich particular landholders to the detriment of the public interest and providing social and affordable housing to those who need it.’
Cr Guise said Council should be working with the NRRC/NSWRA, flood-impacted residents and communities to acquire suitable land before rezoning it, and develop it as housing for flood impacted residents.
‘It is conceivable that this could be done in a faster and more affordable manner than leaving it to the market and for-profit developers.’
More control to the NRRC/NSWRA?
‘Developing such land in this way would give more control to the NRRC/NSWRA to determine the design of the development in accordance with principles of ecologically sustainable development and healthy urban design,’ said Cr Guise.
‘In particular, building healthy, happy and sustainable housing that is affordable to people, particularly the most vulnerable in our community.
‘Critically, Lismore Council should not be rushing to rezone future residential lands without first implementing an Affordable Housing Contributions Scheme which we’ve been told will take years to implement.’
Can for-profit developers solve the housing crisis?
Cr Guise said Lismore Council should not be leaving it to the for-profit developer-driven market to solve the Northern Rivers housing crisis.
‘This crisis presents an opportunity for the government to demonstrate leadership in solving the housing crisis, by moving people who are living on the floodplain from harm’s way and caring for our most vulnerable in their time of need.
‘Critically, the government must take an equity lens to flood recovery, ensuring that disaster capitalism does not dictate the winners and losers, and instead use this opportunity to address housing inequality once and for all through well-designed affordable and social housing as well as buybacks and house relocations.’
A spokesperson for Reclaiming our Recovery, Trevor Acfield, made comments in support of the motion during Public Access.
‘We have a really great opportunity here to build some brilliant new suburbs that are affordable and diverse,’ he said. ‘We need to ensure that the best value for residents and indeed the Council, is achieved. Councillor Guise’s motion is at the heart of this.’
‘We don’t want developers to be the major financial winners’
Mr Acfield continued: ‘We don’t want developers to be the major financial winners here. We want this Council and this community to be the winners.’
He said many people in the flood-affected areas want to move their houses to safer places. ‘I’m one of them. Many of us love our homes but we know we are not safe anymore.
‘But it’s not just the flood affected there are many who are suffering housing stress. We need federal, state and Lismore Council to assist us and develop the suburbs we need and we can be creative with good planning infrastructure and services.’
Other speakers on the issue included Adam Bruce-Allen, also from Reclaiming our Recovery, who as a registered nurse working in the mental health field, echoes many of Mr Acfield’s comments.
He asked, ‘Are we really so churlish that we don’t want to risk people whose land had a lower value getting a block worth more than the one they lost? Would that damage the social hierarchy too much? Let’s manage our own future and acquire land before rezoning and not afterwards.’
Clunes and the Growth and Realignment Strategy
Scott Hargrave spoke for the Friends of Clunes, calling on Council to remove the proposed development for Clunes from the Small City Council’s Draft Growth and Realignment Strategy currently on exhibition.
The Mayor mentioned that comments about the Clunes subdivision were not relevant to the motion. Mr Hargrave said he believed it was quite relevant.
‘The proposed development seems to have very little to do with alleviating the stress for people that are looking for housing, to be relocated to be moved out of harm’s way. It seems to have an awful lot to do with two entities who will do quite well out of this if the land was rezoned.’
People ‘kicked out’ of their land
Cr Big Rob wanted to remind Public Access petitioners that much of the land would see people ‘kicked out’ of their land as it would be compulsorily acquired and the value of that land would be substantially increased.
During the debate, Cr Guise said that the community members who spoke articulated the essence of what he was trying to get across. ‘If we didn’t have a housing crisis before the flood, it has been exacerbated tenfold now, and as the mayor has said in the past, it’s time to do things differently.
‘We can’t keep on leaving it to the market to develop land to drip feed it to us at exorbitant prices, and think that’s going to solve the social and affordable housing situation.’
Cr Guise said he didn’t that opening up more land for people with a lot more money from out of town to buy and develop would free up houses for the flood-impacted population to move into.
‘That’s not going to happen. It won’t happen overnight. And it certainly will not happen without government input and intervention.’
This is an opportunity
Cr Guise continued: ‘We’ve got this opportunity. It’s not about kicking people out of their homes. This is about identifying those parts of farmland or villages, or the bits we’ve got on our map and asking the corporation to acquire them on just terms as is already allowed under legislation.
‘We need to prioritise this housing for those already in housing stress, those who have been for decades and those that have been exposed to this, under these catastrophic flood and future extreme weather events that will be inflicted upon us.
‘Let’s set the example and the trend for doing it differently and use the corporation to make affordable and social housing for those who need it. Please think outside the box Councillors and don’t think that we can keep doing things the way we have, and get different results.’
The mayor then put the motion to a vote – Councillors Bird, Ekins, Cook and Guise voted for – those opposed were Big Rob and Team Krieg.
After the vote, Cr Guise said he was shocked and disappointed that the Krieg majority did not want Council to work with the NRRC to find affordable housing solutions for Lismore’s flood-impacted residents.
‘Our community has been very vocal about having a say in their future,’ he said. ‘By not supporting this motion, they’ve shut the community out of having a say.’