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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Saffin calls on NRCC to improve flood recovery communication

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North Lismore resident Brian Burgin retells his experience of the 28 February 2022 flood when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the $800-million Resilent Homes and Land Package in October last year. Photo supplied

Community frustration with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation’s (NRRC) approach to communication and information distribution was clear from the outset; but now Lismore MP Janelle Saffin is calling for clearer communication from them.

Ms Saffin says that while she has worked well with the NRRC, their main failing is one of communication. She has called on the NSW Government to have a greater sense of urgency and to improve its communications with local residents sweating on decisions about its Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs.

House in North Lismore with rising floodwaters, 30 March 2022. Photo Adam Guise.

‘I’m fielding a constant stream of questions from locals desperate about their individual housing situations and wondering what they should be doing while waiting for voluntary buybacks or house raising or retrofitting,’ Ms Saffin says.

For many people they have been living in limbo, moving between temporary accommodation, living in houses that are missing walls, kitchens and bathrooms as they wait, one year on from the flood, for the governments promised assistance.

‘We’re approaching the first anniversary of the 28 February 2022 flood and I’m still having many heartfelt conversations in my Electorate Office, at my mobile offices and out doorknocking.

Tile Whisperer apprentice Michael Daley standing on a wall knocked off house in South Lismore by force of flood. Photo Ben Hamilton.

Flood free land

‘There is also the bigger plan in terms of assessing Expressions of Interest for securing suitable flood-free land which can be offered to people who get a buyback, and this brings in relocatables.

‘In early December, I wrote to NRRC Chief Executive David Witherdin asking for a detailed briefing on the substantive work the corporation is doing on the Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs, and on other related projects.

‘As the Member of Parliament who now represents four of the seven Local Government Areas within the corporation’s geographic footprint, including part of the Byron Shire hinterland, I need to be well briefed so I can answer my constituents’ questions about our flood recovery.

‘Otherwise, people will be left in limbo land and community frustration with the process will grow. I’m looking forward to Mr Witherdin briefing me after he returns from leave later this month.’

Mullumbimby in flood during February March 2022. Photo Simon Haslam

Ms Saffin says some issues which she believes require improved communications include: 

  • Immediate release of the coloured zone maps for voluntary buy-backs (including relocatables), voluntary house raising and retrofitting so residents at least know where they stand. These maps should be in the public domain.
  • What flood heights is the NRRC using upon which to base this mapping.
  • A potential date for the first approvals under the categories.
  • Total number of registrations for expressions of interests, and the number of case managers.
  • An average value of a buy-back offer, given the commitment that these will be based on pre-flood market values. What is the marker for this?
  • Progress with land acquisition and land swaps, and a plan for people who want to buy, rebuild or relocate.
  • A timeline of what is achievable given available resources.
  • For the NRRC, number of staff, staff profiles, how many live here locally.
  • The NRRC’s programme, jobs undertaken, its annual budget.
  • A summary of the NRRC’s Community Consultations and Conversations.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding with Landcom. Does it cover all seven LGAs and which projects are under consideration and what is it about?
  • Findings of and recommendations from the road damage survey and why dirt ones are not included.
  • Report on remediation of landslips, particularly in the Tyalgum, Federal and Nimbin areas, knowing that they are with Transport and Councils.
  • Report on progress with or expansion of riparian restoration program. ($64 million)
  • For the Advisory Board, its TORs and their programme of Community Consultations and Conversations.
  • For Working Groups, their subject areas, terms of reference and implementation plans.

Flooding on Tamarind Avenue, Bogangar. Photo from the Select Committee on the response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022

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  1. The Lismore community has bullied the NSW government into saying it will bail out people from the obvious consequences of their risk-taking, at massive expense, despite the fact that the NSW government has to spend its budget to benefit all of NSW – much of which has also been flood-affected.

    The NRCC cannot deliver on its commitments to Lismore without this being grossly, immorally, unfair to the rest of NSW (including the rest of the northern rivers).

    Therefore the NRCC should have (most of its) pledged funds redirected across NSW

    • You do know your argument is all skewed in that if nothing is done like in Lismore and other areas then the ongoing costs to taxpayers will continue to explode.

    • Most of us bought our houses with the assurance from government that they were built above the determined and approved maximum flood level – which they obviously weren’t. If you, Shane, ended up with a health problem that was going to cost the NSW Health Department hundreds of thousands of dollars, where others aren’t requiring that level of health support, is that grossly unfair for the rest of NSW? If you have four children, rather than none, is the cost of their public education and public health support grossly unfair?

  2. And we never hear about when the rural roads will be fixed and what about repairs to places like Kohinur Hall. Actually we don’t want to HEAR COMMUNICATIONS we want someone to DO SOMETHING. There was a time when locals would fix all these problems themselves. Now we are banned from doing this so we pay rates and taxes for authorities to do the work But when will they do it?


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