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July 20, 2024

Lismore: 85-house land release announced; ROR say bought-back houses should provide accommodation

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Terry Roth, a homeowner in Lismore whose home will be raised as part of the Resilient Homes Program. Mr Roth would like his home to be raised by more than 2.5m, which will put his floor height above the 2022 flood level of 14.4m. Photo supplied

Meeting the immediate, mid-term and long-term needs of residents of Lismore following the 2022 floods has proven a challenge for the NSW government. Reclaiming our Recovery have welcomed news that houses bought back by the NSW Reconstruction Authority may now be used for housing.

A strong community turn-out prepared to greet police on May 24, 2024after NSWRA told residents the police had been called. Reclaim Our Recovery.

This follows a community campaign ‘Occupation until Relocation’ that has seen some Lismore houses bought back by NSWRA occupied by those who are struggling to find accommodation post the 2022 flood. 

The concession by Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, that ‘there are homes under the buyback system that may be able to be used in that intervening period or while they are relocated or gifted or whatever may happen to them in the end’ was made during the visit to Lismore by Scully and Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib.

‘ROR would like to thank the Minister for this announcement, which is in line with community sentiment and what we at ROR have been arguing for since the beginning of 2023,’ ROR told The Echo

‘We are aware that many houses that are perfectly liveable will be on the flood plain for some time, at least for two more years. These houses could be lived in by caretakers to ensure a win-win situation. People, especially older women and young mothers struggling to find affordable housing could have somewhere to live and the houses be cared for so they will still be worthy of relocating or reuse after two years.’

Minister Scully however, made it clear that they could only be occupied ‘with an occupation certificate from the Reconstruction Authority’.

ROR have said that they are keen to work with the NSW RA to identify those houses that can be occupied safely. 

‘Not all the house are empty because they are not safe,’ said ROR spokesperson Miriam Torzillo.  

‘Many of the boarded up houses are empty solely because the owner accepted the buyback offer, despite having lived in them up till the day before settlement, many were renovated post flood. We say they should be used if they are suitable.

‘We are keen to work together with the NSWRA to identify the houses, do safety audits and provide tenants with flood emergency plans,’ said ROR spokesperson Miriam Torzillo. 

‘Licence to Occupy has been working well for some renters and also will apparently now be available for home-owners, but it could be extended. The community has thrown their support behind the young people who have been occupying houses in North Lismore and making a contribution. The young people have been weeding and revegetating the gardens and the community have responded, providing them with first class induction into the flood situation and the preparedness needed for North Lismore.’ 

Mal Lanyon (Reconstruction Authority), Minister Dib, Minister Scully, Tamara Smith and Janelle Saffin at the North Lismore site announced under the $100 million Resilient Lands Program. Photo supplied

85 houses for North Lismore

The North Lismore development was also announced as the latest site to be released through the $100 million Resilient Lands Program and will deliver around 85 home sites.

‘This follows previous announcements at East Lismore, Goonellabah, Brunswick Heads, Casino and Lennox Head, with more than 2,800 housing sites now in the planning pipeline across the Northern Rivers,’ said a joint press release from Lismore MP Janelle Saffin with ministers Scully and Dib last Thursday. 

‘North Lismore will be master planned and developed in consultation with the community, taking into consideration the site’s environmental, biodiversity and cultural significance.

‘As part of the supporting infrastructure program, to assist primary producers, up to 100 drains that support agricultural properties across the Northern Rivers are being repaired and cleaned out through the $5 million Northern Rivers Agricultural Drainage Reset Program.’

Up to 100 drains that support agricultural properties across the Northern Rivers are being repaired and cleaned. Photo supplied

Minister Scully said, ‘What we’re doing in the Northern Rivers is not a simple rebuilding exercise – we’re making significant long-term changes to where people live, how we plan for climate change and how we mitigate future disasters. As part of our commitment to disaster mitigation, there’s already been significant progress with the Resilient Homes Program, but there is still more to do. As of June 28, 788 buyback offers had been approved and 656 offers accepted, which represents an 83 per cent take-up rate.’

Affordable and above flood level

ROR have pointed out that 85 houses for North Lismore is ‘underwhelming’ and have sought assurances around both support for flood impacted residents to get priority in financial assistance and access to land and housing as well it being located above or close to modelled Probable Maximum Flood events.

‘In a recent article Shelter NSW pointed out that ‘The exhibited draft Resilient Lands Strategy does not appear to display the intersect between “resilient” growth areas and this important modelled-flood event for each LGA’,’ said ROR.

‘We understand from the draft strategy that the principal aim is “to provide flood affected residents with housing options to support their relocation”.

‘Part of that was going to be ‘financial support for social and affordable housing development”. What component of these land packages will actually include the latter, including providing land to flood impacted at below market value and in particular what part will go towards addressing the dire need for public housing?’

Lismore Mayor Steve Keirg said that the NSWRA has been responding more effectively to community needs since the ‘reset’ a year ago. 

‘Feedback from the community has helped the NSW Reconstruction Authority to develop a more people-friendly, place-based approach to determine eligibility for key programs like the Resilient Homes Program. That is a good thing,’ said MP Saffin. 

‘Repeat visits by my parliamentary colleagues show the reset is progressing in the Northern Rivers and the NSW government is in this recovery for the long haul.’

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  1. Has anyone checked that the people now claiming the need to live in the Buy Back houses were actually living in/on the far north coast in 2022 when the flooding happened?

  2. Sounds like common sense won out for once yippee frig if only everything in society was solved by common sense instead of bean counting bureaucrats. We would be a fair dinkum country again.


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