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June 16, 2024

The promised flood funding – will NSW Labor honour their commitment?

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Lismore floods March 1, 2022. Photo David Lowe.

In the wake of the devastating 2022 floods that engulfed the northern rivers region the state government created the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) to help rebuild communities, offer buybacks of houses in flood impacted areas and provide assistance for house raising and retrofits.

That was 16 months ago, and local communities and individuals across the northern rivers have been waiting in limbo for the NRRC to come forward with the promised funds that were committed – a commitment supported by Liberal, National, Labor and Greens parties. 

Flooding near Ballina Fair, 2 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

Failure to meet commitment

The NRRC has now released their long called for flood modelling and is currently providing offers for buybacks for 1,100 rather than the promised 2,000 offers and is looking to offer significantly reduced home raising or home retrofits that were supposed to be in the region of 2,000 offers in each area. 

A NSW Government spokesperson told The Echo that, ‘We are committed to helping the Northern Rivers community prepare for future flood events, and that does not end once this buyback is complete.

‘Homes being prioritised represent the greatest risk to life in most floods.

‘The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Authority is currently prioritising close to 1,100 home buyback offers along with another 340 Home Raising or Home Retrofit offers representing the largest program of its kind in Australia.

‘Now we need to let the NRRC get on with the job engaging home-owners on the buyback, house raising and retrofitting.’

Call for NSW Labor to meet their commitment

Lismore City Mayor – Cr Steve Krieg.

Ballina’s Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow,

The seven council Mayors (Mayor of Lismore Councillor Steve Krieg, Mayor of Kyogle Councillor Kylie Thomas, Mayor of Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader, Mayor of Byron Shire Councillor Michael Lyon, Mayor of Tweed Shire Councillor Chris Cherry, Mayor of Clarence Valley Councillor

Clarence Valley Mayor Ian Tiley. Photo supplied.

, Mayor of Richmond Valley Councillor) and four state MPs (Janelle Saffin MP Member for Lismore, Geoff Provest MP

Kyogle Mayor, Kylie Thomas. Photo Facebook.

Cr Chris Cherry will serve as Mayor until September 2023.

Mayor Michael Lyon. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Member for Tweed, Tamara Smith MP Member for Ballina, Richie Williamson MP Member for Clarence) have come together in bipartisan cooperation to write to the NSW Premier calling for the second tranche of funding that was promised by the previous coalition government and supported by Labor to be put on the table.

$1.5 billion promised but not yet delivered

‘We the elected representatives of the Northern Rivers are writing to you to ask you to deliver on tranche two of the Resilient Homes program (RHP) as soon as possible.

‘Our communities need to know that the funding they believed would come is definitely coming and that the RHP as promised will be completed. 

‘The RHP was initially given funding of $750 million, but when officially drawn up and presented to Cabinet the figure stood at $1.5 billion. A decision was made by cabinet to fund the first tranche and any commitment to the second tranche would follow.’

Second round of funding needed now

While the councils appreciate the release of the flood mapping by the NRRC they are clear that the current level of buyback, house raising and retrofitting is not adequate. 

‘We know many home owners have been waiting for this information to make important decisions about their futures and to help with the recovery process following the flood in 2022,’ Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry told The Echo

‘However, it is clear the NRRC is constrained by their funding of $700 million for the program and has been forced to prioritise their list of buyback properties to those most at risk of loss of life.

‘The NRRC is paying pre-flood market rates for the buybacks and unfortunately that means there are only so many homes that can be bought in the first tranche of funding – what we need most of all is getting Tranche 2 immediately!’

Richmond Valley Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said, ‘if the maps had been available earlier, it might have saved a lot of community concern and people could have moved on sooner.

‘The maps showed there was limited opportunity for people in the Richmond Valley to take advantage of the buy-back scheme, as most activity was centred on Lismore.

‘This was disappointing, as it left Richmond Valley homeowners with fewer choices to rebuild. 

‘The NSW Government needs to find better solutions for people in Coraki, Woodburn, Broadwater and Rileys Hill,’ Mr Macdonald said.

A spokesperson for Ballina Shire Council told The Echo that, ‘Council is waiting on more details to enable us to understand the outcomes for the properties that were registered for the scheme that are located in Ballina Shire.

‘We are concerned that the package will not deliver on the expectations to buy back all of the properties in the high risk areas.’

Call for in person meeting

The letter from the councils and MPs to Premier Chris Minns calls for the second round of funding to be provided.

‘We are now asking for tranche two to come sooner than later so that the RHP can be completed. Some nearly 16 months on from the humanitarian disaster that engulfed our communities we need to know that as promised we will not be forgotten and that we can recover to bring more stability into our communities. 

‘Further to our request for tranche two funding to complete the RHP we request to meet you in person to discuss this matter and the overall matters impacting the flood recovery and rebuild, including the NRRC and its remit. 

‘It is fair to say we were disappointed with their “maps” release,’ states the letter. 

Get our families out of risk areas

Tweed Shire Mayor Cherry said, ‘I join with other leaders in the region in calling on both the Australian and NSW governments to follow through with their promises and commit additional funding to the NRRC.

‘More funding is needed so more of our homes can be relocated to safety and more of our families are out of risk.

‘We are pleased the NRRC has taken into consideration the previous voluntary house purchase and voluntary house raising schemes Tweed Shire Council had adopted after the 2017 floods in South Murwillumbah, Bray Park, Burringbar and Mooball. The new program will allow for these schemes to be delivered much faster than Council could ever have hoped under the previous funding arrangements with the NSW Government – and cover expanded areas in the Tweed that were badly affected in 2022,’ Cr Cherry told The Echo.

‘From a more technical perspective, the prioritisation framework is logical and based on the best available flood data. However, we will be seeking more detailed mapping of some of our villages, like Tumbulgum and Burringbar, to be able to do a proper assessment.

‘We await further information from NRRC on the number of properties within each mapped area that will likely be able to be funded, especially given the extent of mapping for the house raising and resilience component of the program.’

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  1. so the NRCC has put north lismore plateau as a no.1 priority to provide housing out of flood free areas for Lismore.

    this area has been ready to go for some 10 years at least, yet there have been members of the community who have tried to stop this critical housing opportunity, the echo has published many articles against this ‘development’ (remember all development is bad on the north coast!)

    eg. https://www.echo.net.au/2022/12/refusal-recommended-for-north-lismore-plateau-da/

    I have no vested interest in the land, just makes perfect sense to move houses up there from north and south lismore, I am a builder and been helping so many flood houses out, many can be relocated. ITs a great idea, lets just get it done now!

  2. As it was during Covid, it is all about the haves, and the have-nots are swept under the carpet. There are people renting in these flood dumps, paying pre flood rents, living in third World conditions. They will be turfed out onto the street by the government as they buy back these investment properties from rich slumlords now crying poor, while the renters got $3000 buyback for their worldly posessions. Would the government be buying back other investments gone wrong, such as shares or bit coin? I think not. What about doing something about housing people who are being shafted by those who own several homes?


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