On Tuesday Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) called on the NSW Labor government to ‘deliver the second tranche of $800 million in funding for the Resilient Homes Program initially outlined to the New South Wales Cabinet’ following thousands of people being denied the promised assistance following the devastating 2022 floods.
Ms Smith spoke to her motion on the floor of parliament recounting stories from flood-affected constituents of the Ballina electorate in an effort to persuade the NSW Labor government to announce a second tranche of funding for the Resilient Homes Program in the upcoming NSW budget.
‘We are 18 months on from the most devastating natural disaster in our region’s history, and thousands of people across the Northern Rivers remain in desperate need of support from this Labor government,’ said Ms Smith.
‘So far, the government has only committed enough funding for less than a quarter of the buybacks, retrofits and raises that flood survivors need.
‘This is incredibly disappointing, and it has been an extremely traumatic experience for flood survivors who have been promised that support is on the way.
‘Dozens of people who have been deemed “ineligible” for the first round of support from the Resilient Homes Program have contacted me, and their stories are moving.’
During her speech to parliament, Ms Smith recounted a number of stories she had been sent and has delivered to the NSW Premier.
‘We officially received the call on Monday saying we are ineligible for the resilient homes program despite our house flooding to the ceiling in the 2022 floods.., we are a family of five with three young daughters under the age of ten… we found the process incredibly traumatic’ she recounted from a local resident Julien.
Simon wrote to her saying, ‘Hey Tamara I’ve just had a rather upsetting call from my partner whose entire property was lost in a landslide last year – he’s been informed that his property is not a priority. I’m completely dumbfounded at how this is not a priority for a buyback.’
Ms Smith read out the experiences of Katie from Brunswick Heads: ‘Flood water came in at 1.7 metres and my home was inundated, losing all possessions and my car and the house was destroyed. My daughter and I escaped by paddle board to a nearby veranda, but the flood water was so fast flowing that we nearly ended up in the river, only saved by hanging onto a fence.’
Ms Smith went on to say, ‘Those are just a snapshot of the voices of the people in my community who believe the promises and are still waiting and suffering. I say to the Premier that this is an opportunity. It is not just about making whole those promises; it is about making sure that, in future extreme weather events, those people are out of harm’s way.’
6,000 buybacks, retrofits and raises promised
NSW Cabinet was initially told that $1.5 billion dollars had been allocated toward the Resilient Homes Program in order to fund 6,000 buybacks, retrofits and raises. The first tranche, consisting of $700 million, was announced in October of last year. The NSW Labor government is yet to commit to a timeline for the second tranche of funding.
The NRRC (now known as the Reconstruction Authority) announced in June that the initial $700 million would only be able to fund 1,100 buybacks and 349 raises. As a result, over 75 per cent of flood survivors in need of support have since been told they are ‘ineligible’ for buybacks, retrofits or raises.
After a Question from Smith in the last sitting of NSW Parliament, Minns conceded that ‘more needed to be done’ to fund the Resilient Homes Program, and that the NSW government would have ‘more to say’ on this issue in the upcoming budget, announced on the 19 September.
‘I’m optimistic that further funding will be announced in next week’s budget, and I look forward to working closely with Ministers and relevant government departments to ensure the flood recovery is as transparent and well-resourced as possible,’ said Ms Smith.