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Byron Shire
May 20, 2024

Reconstruction Authority yet to answer questions

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CEO of the Reconstruction Authority, Simon Draper, is also permanent secretary of the NSW Premier’s Department.
Photo governmentnews.com.au

The new CEO of the Reconstruction Authority, Simon Draper, is yet to answer questions put to him by The Echo, despite many weeks of promises from his latest communications manager that they would be.

Reconstruction Authority is the latest government corporation tasked with flood recovery for the region, and replaced the beleaguered Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC), which was established in April 2022 and then subsumed into the NSW Reconstruction Authority in July 2023.

Another government-funded entity tasked with flood recovery was Resilience NSW. Established in May 2020, it was found to be ineffective by the Flood Inquiry, and was abolished by the NSW government in December 2022. 

All entities operated without any public transparency, owing to their corporate status, and are only accountable to the planning minister Paul Scully, and Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib (both NSW Labor).

Echo questions to those ministers were referred back to the Reconstruction Authority, who have to this point not offered any assurances that they will act in good faith with the flood-affected community.

The following are Echo questions put to Mr Draper:

Mick Cassel

‘According to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), ‘In February 2023, Simon Draper was appointed as CEO of the NSW Reconstruction Authority, taking over from interim CEO, Mick Cassel, Secretary Department of Planning and Environment’.

‘The Guardian recently reported that ‘Documents show how ex-NSW planning head was involved in fast-track rezoning for developer he later worked for… FOI documents show Michael Cassel was on first-name terms with Walker Corp CEO and pushed for meetings on his behalf. 

‘Was this report correct, and if so, what policy is in place that would ensure that this won’t happen again? Was there any consequence for Mr Cassel’s actions, which could appear to be a conflict of interest and unethical?’

Resilient Land Strategy 

‘How will any fast tracked land release, as proposed, deliver homes to all North Coast residents who are both flood-affected and in genuine need of low cost housing? 

‘The yet-to-be-adopted Land Strategy says $100 million will go towards “Innovative housing pilot programs” and “Financial support for social and affordable housing development”, among other things. When will the public see these details?’

Affordable housing

‘Why is Reconstruction Authority considering financial support for “affordable housing”, given the regulations around affordable housing (State Environmental Planning Policies, or SEPP) do not provide genuine affordable outcomes?’

Home retrofitting, home raising and home buy back programs

‘Has all $600 million now been allocated for all the home retrofitting, home raising and home buy back programs? If not, how much is there to go?’

Public trust/accountability

‘Are there any new benchmarks/KPIs that the Reconstruction Authority has to adhere to – i.e. how is it any different from the previous organisations it replaces (Resilience NSW and the NRRC)?’ 

Communication with the public

‘The website www.reconstruction.nsw.gov.au isn’t live, and there is no way of seeing any progress with the allocation of grants. The NRRC website is still live, and once had a dashboard. When will the public be provided this information?’

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