New flood risk mapping released by the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Commission (NRRC) which has seen the number of homes eligible for buyback halved has been slammed by the Nationals as calls come for the second tranche of funding to be released.
NRRC Chief Executive David Witherdin said the new mapping will inform the Commonwealth and State Government’s co-funded $700 million program and be used to prioritise home buybacks, raisings and retrofits.
“The NRRC has worked with flood experts on the flood mapping using the most up-to-date data from councils, NSW SES and other sources,” he said.
“This is now the region’s most comprehensive flood mapping and analysis available – showing the relative risk to life for each neighbourhood and the order in which further home buyback, raising and retrofit offers will be prioritised.”
Mr Witherdin said the new flood mapping and analysis indicates specific areas across the Northern Rivers which pose the greatest risk to life in most floods and therefore will be the first priority for buybacks.
The NRRC’s method for determining the location of prioritised homes includes where the risk to life is greatest under most flood scenarios and are likely to be inundated by high and fast floodwaters.
Homes being prioritised under the Resilient Homes Program present the greatest risk to life to both residents and emergency response agencies sent to rescue them.
The NRRC is in the process of contacting homeowners registered for the Resilient Homes Program and remains on track to inform all homeowners of their prioritisation by mid-year.
The [Clarence Valley] Independent asked the NRRC why the number of homes eligible for buybacks had been halved and what will happen to homes and land that are bought back by the government, but did not receive a response by deadline.
Clarence MP Richie Williamson said the mapping provided little hope for residents across the Clarence and Richmond Valley’s seeking buybacks, raising and retrofits.
“Residents who applied for support through the Resilient Homes Program have every right to feel disappointed and let down,” he said.
“The support being offered does not match the scale of the flooding disaster and its impact on all communities across the Northern Rivers.
“Residents have been hopeful and patient waiting some 16 months for answers and have now been left blindsided and more confused than ever about their future.”
Mr Williamson said more needs to be done to find solutions for flood-impacted residents in the Richmond and Clarence valley local government areas.
“The maps lack detail leaving more questions than answers, with some flood prone areas not even on the mapping,” he said.
“I can understand why people are upset and frustrated they are not in a priority zone even though their homes were extensively damaged during the floods, and I share their disappointment.
“I will be working with my parliamentary colleagues on a bipartisan basis to advocate for this.”
Federal member for Page Kevin Hogan said the announcement that Northern Rivers buybacks would be drastically cut back was made even worse by the news Queensland buybacks would be increased.
“In the same week Labor let the bad news out that the buyback numbers for Lismore and our region had been halved, Federal Emergency services Minister Murray Watt announced the same scheme in his home state of Queensland would be boosted by another 300 homes,” he said.
“I don’t know what sort of game Labor thinks it’s playing here, but it really adds insult to injury.”
“We still have no answers on why the original 2058 homes identified for buyback in our region has been halved back to just 1091.”
Last Thursday, Lismore based NSW MLC Sue Higginson called on the NSW government to release all documents relating to the NRRC’s Resilient Homes Program.
Meanwhile, a letter signed by all Northern Rivers MP’s and Mayors has been sent to Premier Chris Minns calling on the government to release tranche two of the Resilient Homes Program RHP funding.
“Our communities need to know that the funding they believed would come is definitely coming and that the RHP as promised will be completed,” the letter said.
“The RHP was initially given funding of $750 million, but when officially drawn up and presented to Cabinet the figure stood at $1.5 billion.
“A decision was made by cabinet to fund the first tranche and any commitment to the second tranche would follow.
“We are now asking for tranche two to come sooner than later so that the RHP can be completed.”
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 28 June 2023.