Over a year has passed since the devastating February 2022 floods, but many residents of the Northern Rivers have not received the support to retrofit, raise or buyback their homes, as pledged to them by the federal and state governments.
Byron Shire’s homeowners are no exception, with numerous community residents beginning to become frustrated by the lack of meaningful expenditure of flood-recovery money.
Regarding the lack of support for homeowners, the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corp (NRRC) told The Echo that, ‘All residents who have registered with the Resilient Homes Program will be provided with information about their eligibility for a voluntary buyback, house raising or house retrofitting by mid-2023’.
The spokesperson added that all homeowners registered with the Resilient Homes Program, ‘are eligible for all three Resilient Homes Program streams (voluntary home buyback, raising or retrofitting)’.
‘[A] combination of factors, including the location of the residential dwelling relative to the modelled flood levels (Annual Exceedance Probability), flood impact severity data, safety risks and potential future flood levels’ will be relied upon to decide the exact program stream each property is eligible for’.
For those homeowners who have already paid for work before securing a Resilient Homes Program offer; there is still a chance to ‘receive funding or reimbursement’ if eligible for retrofitting, which will be analysed ‘on a case-by-case basis’.
Slabs cannot be raised
A key concern for the flood-affected residents of Mullumbimby is what help will be given to high-risk brick homes built on concrete slabs, as they cannot be raised.
The reply was, ‘adding another level to brick homes is not currently part of the Resilient Homes Program’, meaning that retrofitting or buyback are the only options available to such homeowners.
The Echo was also told that the ‘NRRC is developing plans to further investigate the number of homes eligible for house raising in Mullumbimby’, which ‘will be undertaken in consultation with homeowners, community members, Byron Shire Council and relevant specialist contractors’.
It’s unclear whether further investigation will focus on what alternatives are available for the multiple brick-on-slab homes that flooded.
Regarding Council’s own flood recovery effort, The Echo was informed by the mayor that ‘two dedicated recovery positions… have been appointed by Council post-floods’, who will, ‘act as a conduit between community, government and other areas of Council’, and focus on key areas of work, including ‘advocacy, facilitation of key stakeholder groups, including the Community Resilience Network, collaboration and community engagement’.
The mayor acknowledged that ‘the floods have highlighted that socioeconomic marginalised communities… were more likely to be evacuated, displaced for long periods and suffered worse wellbeing outcomes than other groups’, and stated that ‘Council is working closely’ with organisations and community groups ‘to address preparedness for vulnerable community members’.
Everyone in the region has the opportunity to ask questions related to the current state of the flood recovery effort, as the Byron Shire Council is ‘in the process of organising a community Zoom for some time in April’, hopefully with David Witherdin in attendance.
Perhaps the most important questions the community should ask are ‘why is there no deadline for when flood-affected folk will receive assistance?’, and ‘Why has there been no prioritisation for those most directly affected by the floods?’
Yet people want the government to run even more stuff, cause next time it will turn out different.