Flood recovery needs a sense of urgency, better communication

Janelle Saffin MP is calling on the NSW Government to show a greater sense of urgency and improve communications for the next phases of our flood recovery.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has called on the NSW Government to have a greater sense of urgency and to improve its communications with local residents sweating on decisions about its Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs.

Ms Saffin says that while she has worked well with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, their main failing is one of communication.

“I’m fielding a constant stream of questions from locals desperate about their individual housing situations and wondering what they should be doing while waiting for voluntary buybacks or house raising or retrofitting,” Ms Saffin says.

“There is also the bigger plan in terms of assessing Expressions of Interest for securing suitable flood-free land which can be offered to people who get a buyback, and this brings in relocatables.

“We’re approaching the first anniversary of the 28 February 2022 flood and I’m still having many heartfelt conversations in my Electorate Office, at my mobile offices and out doorknocking.

“In early December, I wrote to NRRC Chief Executive David Witherdin asking for a detailed briefing on the substantive work the corporation is doing on the Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs, and on other related projects.

“As the Member of Parliament who now represents four of the seven Local Government Areas within the corporation’s geographic footprint, including part of the Byron Shire hinterland, I need to be well briefed so I can answer my constituents’ questions about our flood recovery.

“Otherwise, people will be left in limbo land and community frustration with the process will grow. I’m looking forward to Mr Witherdin briefing me after he returns from leave later this month.”

Ms Saffin says some issues which she believes require improved communications include:

  • Immediate release of the coloured zone maps for voluntary buy-backs (including relocatables), voluntary house raising and retrofitting so residents at least know where they stand. These maps should be in the public domain.
  • What flood heights is the NRRC using upon which to base this mapping.
  • A potential date for the first approvals under the categories.
  • Total number of registrations for expressions of interests, and the number of case managers.
  • An average value of a buy-back offer, given the commitment that these will be based on pre-flood market values. What is the marker for this?
  • Progress with land acquisition and land swaps, and a plan for people who want to buy, rebuild or relocate.
  • A timeline of what is achievable given available resources.
  • For the NRRC, number of staff, staff profiles, how many live here locally.
  • The NRRC’s programme, jobs undertaken, its annual budget.
  • A summary of the NRRC’s Community Consultations and Conversations.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding with Landcom. Does it cover all seven LGAs and which projects are under consideration and what is it about?
  • Findings of and recommendations from the road damage survey and why dirt ones are not included.
  • Report on remediation of landslips, particularly in the Tyalgum, Federal and Nimbin areas, knowing that they are with Transport and Councils.
  • Report on progress with or expansion of riparian restoration program. ($64 million)
  • For the Advisory Board, its TORs and their programme of Community Consultations and Conversations.
  • For Working Groups, their subject areas, terms of reference and implementation plans.

FLASHBACK: North Lismore resident Brian Burgin retells his experience of the 28 February 2022 flood when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the $800-million Resilent Homes and Land Package in October last year.