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Byron Shire
December 3, 2022

Editorial – Getting recovery right

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The Tweed River at Chinderah during the February-March 2022 flood. Photo supplied.

The recognition of loss and damage at COP27 is a cause for celebration by those countries, especially developing countries, already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

While floods continue to devastate much of Australia, here on the Northern Rivers we are in recovery, tallying the costs of the unprecedented February and March floods on our lives, lifestyles and futures.

The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) is a key part of that recovery. It is meant to provide compensation for the ‘damage and loss’ people have experienced locally and to plan for the future. NRRC is  supplying $800 million of government money towards house buybacks, house raising, wetproofing houses, and investing in land-release programs where displaced residents may be housed.

The fertile red soil of Cudgen is currently designated SSF. Photo supplied.

However, the way this is approached is vital. There are key questions around the preservation of State Significant Farmland (SSF), a special zoning put in place in 2005 to protect valuable farming land. The government corporation must also consider real sustainability actions on water use, energy supply and other infrastructure.

The value of biodiversity must be incorporated into the work of the NRRC. The choices they make on our behalf will be the key factors that shape this region as we face the repercussions of the world’s failure to address climate change and to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

Mount Chincogan with Mount Warning in the background. The North Coast is considered a biodiveristy hotspot. Photo Ziggi Browning.

Currently, the NRRC is not looking at the sustainable carrying capacity of the region as one of the underlying principles of their approach to the ‘quick land release’ process. There is an approach of continual growth, which is not sustainable in the longer term.

While the leader of the NRRC, David Witherdin, told The Echo last week that they would be working with current developers who can quickly bring land to market for housing, he said that approved, but yet-to-be-built, developments in flood-prone areas were not something that he would be looking at. Why not?

Map of revised Villa World DA. Map by Dailan Pugh

Currently wetlands at West Byron are being filled for housing, approved developments at Kingscliff will increase the risk of flooding for existing and future residents. When will the state government and the NRRC take action to ensure that they are not putting residents at increased risk?

Property developers can make enormous profits, the payoff for the risk they take on land speculation. They  should be shouldering a significant part of the responsibility for developing land at risk of flooding in the future. It should not be up to the taxpayer to bail them out if their planners did not honestly assess the risks in their environmental studies.

Future loss and damage must be calculated into the decisions taken today as we face a world in which the heating climate will cause more drought, fire and flooding. For those in power, such as the NRRC, ignoring these risks is foolish and irresponsible.

Aslan Shand, editor

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  1. Homes cannot be built in any unsafe place. That ought to be that – no ifs or buts. People have had a gut full of deliberate misuse.

  2. Thanks Aslan, agreed. We all know that growth at all costs is a cancer that is killing us. When are we gonna have the guts to stop it? Or will we have to sacrifice so much that we love and need to survive, before that growth is forced (by climate chaos) to stop?


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