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2022 Floods

Flood affected residents in the Northern Rivers protest outside Labor MPs offices asking for more funding

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Frustration continues to build over the lack of transparency towards Northern Rivers flood victims - flood protest

Flood affected residents in the Northern Rivers protest outside Labor MPs offices asking for more funding

 

By Sarah Waters

Mullumbimby resident Noelle Maxwell is one of the thousands of Northern Rivers residents who have been left traumatised by the 2022 floods and now she and her fellow residents have banded together to demand more from the state and federal governments.

On Tuesday, December 12, a community protest was held outside the Tweed office of Federal Labor Member for Richmond Justine Elliot and the office of Lismore Labor MP Janelle Saffin.

The protest attracted dozens of residents and local organisations, which signed an open letter demanding a fully funded flood recovery.

It was backed by the Green’s Member for Ballina Tamara Smith and Greens candidate for Richmond Mandy Nolan.

Ms Maxwell said the floods were deeply traumatic for her and so many other people and they’ve been kept in limbo for nearly two years.

“To have no idea if you’ll ever receive the support you need to return home has needlessly compounded that trauma,” she said.

“My house was flooded so badly that I have not been able to return, but I’ve been told multiple times that I’m not eligible for house raising.

“So even if I did fix my house, it would be devastated in the next inevitable flood.

“All we’re asking for is certainty and the financial support we were promised to return to our homes.”

Protestors want to know if they will ever be able to return to their flood affected home - flood protest

Protestors want to know if they will ever be able to return to their flood affected home at recent protest.

The open letter asks the state and federal governments to jointly provide funding to cover what has been identified as a $700m shortfall in the Resilient Homes Program, before the end of the year.

Cabinet figures suggested the delivery of 6000 home buybacks, retrofits and raises, indicated by the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Authority (NRRC), would cost $1.5 billion.

An initial round of $700m in funding was allocated last year through the Resilient Homes Program.

Three months ago, Labor revealed a new $150 million Community Restoration Flood Fund in its 2023-24 NSW Budget to support disaster impacted communities in the Northern Rivers and Central West.

$100 million of the Community Restoration Flood Fund will be go towards the second instalment of the Resilient Homes Program in the Northern Rivers.

The rest will go towards priority disaster adaptation plans, repair and replacement of critical community assets and improving the resilience of public infrastructure.

Frustration continues to build over the lack of transparency towards Northern Rivers flood victims - flood protest

Frustration continues to build over the lack of transparency towards Northern Rivers flood victims in a protest.

The Greens have since been calling for the Resilient Homes Program’s second tranche of $700m in funding, to make up the $1.5 billion needed to cover the 6000 affected houses.

In addition, flood affected residents said they want clear and appropriate timelines for the delivery of 4000 retrofits and house raises and 2000 buybacks for homes affected by the 2022 flood event.

They also want assurance that the NSW Reconstruction Authority operates transparently and communicates sensitively with community members.

It is estimated three quarters of flood survivors have gone without any financial support from the Resilient Homes Program.

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith, who is also the NSW Greens disaster relief spokesperson, said she was proud to see flood survivors raising their voices.

“We were promised 6000 buybacks, retrofits and house-raises from the Resilient Homes Program, but thousands of people are missing out thanks to a $700m funding shortfall,” Ms Smith said.

“It’s been nearly two years, and over three quarters of flood-affected people are still living in fear and uncertainty after being denied the house-raises, buybacks and retrofits they need to protect their homes,” she said.

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith during flood protest

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith

Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Richmond Mandy Nolan further criticised the state and federal Labor governments.

“The Greens stand behind the communities demands for the state and federal governments to jointly fund the resilient homes program so that all 6000 applicants receive support.

“Our current federal Member is the only Northern Rivers politician who is yet to call for this additional $700m to be delivered.”

In response, Member for Richmond Justine Elliot reiterated the Resilient Homes Program is a NSW state government program that is part funded by the Commonwealth in partnership with the NSW state government.

“The NSW State Government fund the remainder of the program and is responsible for its delivery and operation,” Ms Elliot said.

“I know how hard Janelle Saffin, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery, is working to deliver assistance and support for our flood affected community.

“To date, the Federal Government and New South Wales Governments have collectively committed over $3.4 billion for disaster funding.

“In relation to additional recovery support, I’m advised that the Federal Government hasn’t received a formal request from the NSW State Government.

“We stand ready to assist and work with them,” she said.

Ms Elliot also took a swipe at the Greens and called the protest a desperate attempt to divert attention from the Greens’ recent ‘destructive actions’ in the Federal Parliament.

“Greens Party candidate Mandy Nolan is now shamelessly using flood victims to try and pretend that the Greens actually care about housing.

“Protesting outside Janelle Saffin and my offices, while at the same time continuing to block housing help, is just another cheap political stunt by the Greens,” she said.

Federal member for Richmond Justine Elliot

Federal member for Richmond Justine Elliot

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin, who was appointed NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery, in August, has been widely recognised as a fierce campaigner for flood victims.

During the floods, she had to swim to safety after the house she was staying in became surrounded by flood water and her husband had to be rescued from their home on the Wilsons River.

Ms Saffin said she remained absolutely committed to securing the full second tranche of NSW-Commonwealth funding to keep driving the region’s flood recovery.

“Together with fellow MPs and local mayors, I called for a reset of how things were being done, including the need for full funding and for greater transparency in how reconstruction is managed.

“I share local people’s frustrations at what has become a drawn-out disaster recovery process, but I’m in their corner every day, progressing better outcomes,” she said.

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin

Almost two years on from the February/March 2022 flood disasters in Northern NSW new data obtained by the Greens has revealed that just 11 per cent of the 5001 applicants in the Tweed, Byron and Lismore councils, under the government’s $700m recovery program, have been approved for a buyback. The cost of each buyback is on average $583,567.

 

For more 2022 floods news, click here.

2022 Floods

Northern Rivers to bear brunt of future disaster costs

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Northern Rivers Disaster Costs

Northern Rivers to bear brunt of future disaster costs

 

By Tim Howard

The Northern Rivers area will bear the brunt of the costs of dealing with worsening natural disasters in coming decades warns the NSW Reconstruction Authority.

The authority predicted disaster recovery costs would nearly treble by 2060 in the first State Disaster Mitigation Plan, which was released on Friday.

In 2023 the estimated average annual cost of disaster recovery was $3.1 billion and by 2060 this would jump to $9.1 billion.

And flooding in the Clarence Valley was the costliest item in league tables of disaster costings comparing estimates from last year to predictions for 2060.

In the total average annual loss in built environment 2023 the Clarence Valley disaster recovery bill came in at $133 million, of which flooding contributed $112 million.

Coastal areas of the Northern Rivers figured in the top four places on the table in 2023, with Tweed topping the locals with a bill of $146 million. The Clarence was next and Ballina’s bill came in at $109 million.

Lismore was near the bottom of the table with a disaster bill in 2023 of $57 million.

The NSW Central Coast topped the table with a disaster recovery bill estimated at 178 million.

The NSW Reconstruction Authority was established following the 2022 NSW Independent Flood Inquiry, led by Professor Mary O’Kane and Mick Fuller.

The State Disaster Mitigation Plan was a requirement of the NSW Reconstruction Authority Act 2022, which required the NSW Reconstruction Authority to prepare and implement a state disaster mitigation plan.

It was developed to provide guidance for mitigation of disasters across NSW.

The plan outlined how the rising costs of disasters can be addressed by refocusing government policy towards risk-reducing actions, and details how government agencies can work together to help communities prepare for worsening bushfires, heatwaves, floods, storms and coastal erosion.

The NSW Reconstruction Authority will help coordinate delivery of the actions to improve community resilience and mitigate disasters.

Since 2019, NSW residents have endured more than 65 declared disasters, costing taxpayers more than $6 billion, with more than 20,000 homes damaged in 2022 alone.

The authority said climate change was expected to increase the severity and frequency of natural disasters.

The plan includes a toolkit of measures to reduce communities’ exposure and vulnerability to disasters through awareness and preparedness campaigns, evacuation infrastructure and warning systems.

Total Average annual loss in built environment 2060 Northern Rivers Disaster Costs

Total Average annual loss in built environment 2060

The actions include:

  • Boosting the State’s “Get Ready” preparedness campaigns to ensure communities are better equipped.
  • Building a new local government toolkit to guide councils in preparing for disasters and the impacts of climate change.
  • Developing local Disaster Adaptation Plans that will help communities become more aware and prepared and will inform future planning processes and rebuilding and reconstruction efforts after a disaster occurs.
  • Developing early warning systems so communities are better prepared when disaster strikes.
  • Identifying mitigation infrastructure strategies and approaches to funding.
  • Working with industry to review building codes to factor in greater building resilience through materials and design.
  • Reviewing insurance levy arrangements and working with the insurance sector to factor in affordability in adaption planning.
Total average annual loss in built environment 2023 - Northern Rivers Disaster Costs

Total average annual loss in built environment 2023

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said historically, the state’s ability to prevent and prepare for disasters hadn’t worked as there has been only 3% of funding spent on prevention and 97% spent after an event.

“This is our opportunity to build better so that we can better deal with disasters that come and equip communities with what they need.”

Minister Emergency Services Jihad Dib said the government was shifting the dial in how it addressed disasters as well as making sure it did not inadvertently put people in harm’s way through bad planning decisions.

“For the first time, NSW finally has a plan to begin turning that around with information on how we can invest in reducing risks before disasters occur to better protect communities,” he said.

“Successive years of unprecedented natural disasters have highlighted the need for NSW to meet the challenges of the future by working to reduce both the actual and social costs of natural hazards to our communities.”

He said it had not been easy.

“There is no easy or simple solution to these challenges,” he said. “The focus of the State Disaster Mitigation Plan is to provide a framework and clear actions for reducing risk where we can, and adapting where we can’t, through improved warning systems and a focus on resilient infrastructure.

“The increasing risk of natural disasters also increases pressure on our emergency services staff and volunteers, who put themselves on the line keeping communities safe. This plan will help to manage that risk by reducing the impact of disasters before they occur.”

Deputy CEO of the NSW Reconstruction Authority Simone Walker was proud of the document.

“The NSW Reconstruction Authority is the first entity of its kind in NSW with the dual responsibility of proactively reducing the impact of future disasters before they happen, as well as responding after,” she said.

“This milestone plan gives NSW communities the first ever roadmap to reduce the risk of future disasters.

“This is critical because every dollar we invest in reducing risks will help people recover faster and reduce the cost of future disasters.”

Clarence Valley mayor Peter Johnstone was not ready to comment on the plan. He said he would discuss it with council staff and release a response during the week.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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2022 Floods

No State plan for emergency housing during disasters: Auditor General finds no systemic improvements since 2022 Northern Rivers floods

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No State plan for emergency housing during disasters: Auditor General finds no systemic improvements since 2022 Northern Rivers floods

No State plan for emergency housing during disasters: Auditor General finds no systemic improvements since 2022 Northern Rivers floods

 

The NSW Auditor General has today released their Flood Housing Response report along with 7 recommendations to reduce catastrophic housing crises as a result of natural disasters. Among the findings was evidence that; there was no plan for temporary housing at the time of the 2022 floods, the number of temporary dwellings did not meet forecast demand and that there was no long term plan for transitioning people out of temporary housing and into permanent housing.

The report also found that agencies have not formalised processes that were used during the 2022 floods and that there is no State-wide process to capture the knowledge gained by Government agencies that were involved in the disaster response.

Greens MP and North Coast spokesperson Sue Higginson said “This report will be cold comfort for North Coast residents and flood survivors that have felt for years that there was no plan in place for catastrophic natural disasters. The simple truth revealed by this report is, there was no plan,”

No State plan for emergency housing during disasters: Auditor General finds no systemic improvements since 2022 Northern Rivers floods

“Even more concerning, communities across NSW are still exposed to a Government network that is unprepared for future disasters and that has not captured or formalised lessons and policy changes that would provide greater security to at-risk communities,”

“People that have been moved into temporary housing in the Northern Rivers still have no pathway to permanent homes and the pods that they are living in are just a few days away from reaching the end of their design-life of 2 years,”

“The treacle-slow actions of the Government since the initial emergency response mean that it could take another 6 months before a timeline to permanently house displaced people is even decided. The Government doesn’t even know how many people have been left homeless as a result of the under-delivery of temporary housing,”

“The Government must deliver on these recommendations, and they should do so urgently. Communities of the Northern Rivers, and particularly flood survivors, should not have to wait until late this year to have the bare minimum of delivery standards. More than that, if the Government has not learnt from their mistakes, communities at risk of other natural disasters are currently exposed to a repeat of the ongoing trauma that my community is still experiencing,” Ms Higginson said.

 

For more 2022 floods news, click here.

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2022 Floods

Community Engagement Vital in Tweed Valley Flood Study Review

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Community feedback is sought on the Tweed Valley Flood Study which will help shape Council plans for dealing with floods into the future.

Community Engagement Vital in Tweed Valley Flood Study Review

 

Tweed Valley residents are being called upon to actively participate in shaping the future resilience of their region against flooding. The ongoing Tweed Valley Flood Study, now open for public exhibition, represents a crucial step in charting a course for effective flood management strategies.

The study, currently accessible for review and feedback, will serve as the cornerstone for Tweed Shire Council‘s planning and response efforts in mitigating flood risks in the years ahead. Council officials emphasise the significance of community involvement in shaping the final version of the study, urging both business owners and residents to provide their insights and perspectives.

To facilitate community engagement and understanding of the study’s findings, Council has organised a series of face-to-face information sessions across key areas of the Tweed Valley. These sessions aim to provide residents with an opportunity to delve into the details of the draft report, ask questions, and share their feedback directly with Council representatives.

Community feedback is sought on the Tweed Valley Flood Study which will help shape Council plans for dealing with floods into the future.

Community feedback is sought on the Tweed Valley Flood Study which will help shape Council plans for dealing with floods into the future.

Scheduled sessions will take place in Tyalgum on Monday, February 19, Uki on Wednesday, February 21, Chillingham on Thursday, February 22, Murwillumbah on Monday, February 26, Chinderah on Tuesday, February 27, and Tweed Heads on Wednesday, February 28. Additionally, an online session is slated for Thursday, March 7, 2024, at 5 pm.

Residents interested in learning more about the project or registering for the community information sessions are encouraged to visit the Your Say Tweed website for further details and updates. This collaborative effort between Council and the community underscores the collective commitment to enhancing flood resilience and safeguarding the Tweed Valley against future inundation risks.

 

For more 2022 floods news, click here.

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