Rodney Stevens, Clarence Valley Independent
The united chorus of ‘Stop building on Floodplains’ from federal and state leaders during the devastating and ongoing flooding in NSW during 2022 could reshape communities and country towns.
Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt last week called for new laws to be introduced to stop homes being built on floodplains and other disaster-prone areas.
“What we need to do at a minimum is stop approving developments in areas that we know are going to flood,” Senator Watt said
“I think that all of us can see past development decisions that have been approved by different governments, which we all now shake our heads about”
It’s something that’s been in the too-hard basket for too long, and we’re all literally paying the price of that now.
“It makes absolutely no sense for all levels of government to spend billions in disaster recovery while we continue to see housing built on floodplains.”
That statement by Minister Watt came as the government stares down what could be the biggest natural disaster rebuild bill in the nation’s history, just weeks after they announced an $800 million buyback scheme for flood prone Northern Rivers homes.
Thousands of Northern Rivers residents are still living in primitive or alternative accommodation, almost nine months after the region was smashed by record flooding.
First in February, then in March, Yamba was hit by major floods cutting access to the town for up to a week, with an increased number of residents experiencing increased flooding which they claim was caused by stormwater runoff from local developments.
During a visit to Lismore in August, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said we must learn from past mistakes.
“The first thing is to stop; stop developing in areas that are subject to substantial flooding because then we’re not making any progress at all – we’re going back-wards,” he said.
On October 7, in Sydney, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for development on floodplains to stop, which he said will go a long way toward saving communities already reeling from multiple disasters.
“The obvious answer is to stop development on floodplains,” Mr Albanese said in a speech at the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue.
“We need to take flood and other extreme weather events into account when planning infrastructure investments.”
When announcing the $800 million Northern Rivers buy-back and renovation scheme on October 28, the Prime Minister said governments were engaging in discussions about planning and development.
“We need to stop development on floodplains for a start,” Mr Albanese said.
“In some places, it is still continuing, and we need all state and territory governments, as part of this exercise when the national cabinet next meets, we will be discussing how we make sure that we just get better planning.
“Planning and development on floodplains is something that is primarily the responsibility of state governments, but common sense has got to apply here.
“It’s much better to get ahead of a problem than to wait for the disaster to hit.”
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 23 November 2022.