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Byron Shire
September 21, 2023

Editorial: Dear Chris Minns…

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The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

NSW Premier
52 Martin Place

Firstly, congratulations on winning the election in March, and becoming the new Labor premier. 

For over a decade, the public suffered from some of the worst politics ever seen in the state, so there really is an opportunity to do good work, and improve the lives of all those living in NSW.  

The reason I am writing to you is to bring to your attention the unruly and unprofessional conduct of the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC), which is a NSW government-run corporation.

As you are aware, they are tasked with ‘building back $5.6 billion in public infrastructure damage’ from the 2022 floods, and assisting 6,500 people by buying back, raising, or retrofitting their flood-affected homes.

Regarding the Resilient Home Fund, which is the buyback, house-raising or retrofit schemes for flood-affected homes, it appears progress is extremely slow.

According to the NRRC website, 6,471 households are registered and are still waiting. Two buyback settlements have been completed, from a total of 831. Do you consider this efficient governance? 

As Echo editor, I have also been contacted by residents regarding their eligibility for the house-raising or retrofitting streams. 

They say no one has contacted them (in Byron Shire), and the deadline for NRRC to do this is June 30 – less than three weeks away. 

I understand phone calls from the NRRC were meant to commence from mid April.  

The Echo asked the NRRC last week if this deadline would be extended, but is yet to receive a reply.

Another aspect to their responsibilities is the Resilient Land Strategy, which is identifying flood-free land (both private and public) in the region that could be ‘fast-tracked’ to become residential.  

Last week, they released this strategy to the ABC, exclusively it seems, and it was poorly received by a local MP from your own party, owing to a lack of detail. 

Lismore MP, Jannelle Saffin told local ABC News the release of the strategy compared to the ABC-TV political satire Utopia.

Ballina MP, Tamara Smith (Greens), also has concerns, and told The Echo she wants more transparency, given only north coast mayors and general mangers were consulted with these land deals. 

Smith also said, ‘We still do not have a true commitment from the new Labor Minns government for the second tranche of flood money that will deliver the bulk of the needs in Byron and Ballina Shires – house-raising and wet proofing’. 

She added, ‘I have made it clear that if that is not in this year’s budget it will be devastating for people in our community who have been waiting patiently and following the process of expressing interest and registering.’

Please, Mr Minns, show leadership with this serious issue, and genuinely assist the flood-affected people of the Northern Rivers. 

I suggest replacing the entire executive board of NRRC, including CEO David Witherdin, and his atrocious media team. 

Additionally, please remove the corporation status of the NRRC, and newly formed NSW Reconstruction Authority, so the public can be informed of their activities through NSW parliamentary hearings.

It’s taxpayer money after all.

Yours sincerely, 

Hans Lovejoy
Editor, Byron Shire Echo

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  1. What a clear to the point editorial by Hans Lovejoy, editor of the Byron Echo. He even suggests to the premiere to replace the whole executive board of the NRRC and their media team!! What a kick in the guts for all these hundreds of traumatized flood victims having these unbelievably unable people in these so important positions, deciding over large sums of taxpayers money and the fate of so many people patiently waiting for over a year now. Thanks Hans

  2. Hear hear! From those of us in Lismore Shire, thank you Hans, we couldn’t agree more!! The Resilient Lands Strategy is so light on detail, and so heavy on pretty pictures of tourist destinations in the coastal shires (couldn’t see Lismore in there anywhere) it really makes me wonder what and who its for. Certainly not for weary and stressed locals. But maybe for advertising to developers and investors, for the great big land grab that they’d like to unfold?
    Insult was added to injury by the recent Lismore App article with a private chat with David Witherdin providing a bit more detail. Should we send our community consultation submissions to the Murdoch media, since they seem to have something slightly more substantial to respond to? Might as well stretch out the timeframes, too. Since that’s what NRRC has done all along, why shouldn’t we have a more reasonable timeframe than a couple of weeks to respond to what is potentially one of the biggest changes our region has been faced with in many decades?


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