After devastating phone calls, Premier promises flood funding reset – process has not worked

ABOVE: MP Janelle Saffin talks with Premier Chris Minns in Murwillumbah.

Susanna Freymark

Premier Chris Minns visited Lismore last Thursday, June 29, and met with State MPs Janelle Saffin and Richie Williamson and the seven mayors of the LGAs impacted by last year’s flooding.

His visit coincided with thousands of residents getting calls telling them they would get no financial support from the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation.

The NRRC’s promise of helping more than 6500 homes through buybacks, house raising and retrofits has been slashed to 1100 buybacks and 349 retrofits or house raisings.

Flood-impacted communities are frustrated and angry and they are fighting back.

In Lismore there was a protest outside the NRRC offices on Friday, June 30.

This Saturday, July 8, a rally is planned on Woodburn Bridge to protest the NRRC decisions on housing.

A community-led initiative Hands and Hearts has been set up, aiming to repair 100 homes in 10 days.

What will Mr Minns do about the flood funding debacle?

Ms Saffin said he was going to do a “reset” and come back to the Northern Rivers with a plan.

“We met with Premier Chris Minns to canvass our concerns about the recovery, tranche 2 funding and the ‘eligibility’ maps that the NRRC issued,” Ms Saffin said.

“The premier gave us a really good hearing, acknowledged the recovery process has not been working for Northern Rivers communities and agrees that a reset is required.”

Mr Williamson said the premier acknowledged there was more work to be done and the current situation was not good enough.

“He also gave an undertaking he would come back with a better plan in the coming weeks,” Mr Williamson said.

Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow said local government would be included in the reset process.

“I made him aware of our communities’ concerns and disappointment in some of the recent decisions and that we need a clear and concise direction going forward. I feel he listened,” Mr Mustow said.

Ms Saffin said the premier has directed the Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib and Minister for Planning Paul Scully to visit the Northern Rivers in the next fortnight and report back.

“The Federal Government has also said that it is committed to working through any request they receive from the NSW Government regarding tranche 2 for the Resilient Homes program,” Ms Saffin said.

“It is now time for all the recovery-rebuild work to be incorporated into the NSW Reconstruction Authority (a body modelled on the Queensland Reconstruction Authority that operates successfully and in collaboration with their local MPs, councils and communities).

“That is what we need and what has been missing, close collaboration with community.” says the community that has waited 17 months to find out that the help they expected isn’t coming now urgently needs positive action by state and federal governments.

Not listening, not talking – action – so people can move forward with their lives.

Janelle Saffin with Premier Chris Minns, centre and some of the Northern Rivers mayors. Photos: Contributed

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