Council’s flood response: 1000 homeless, $150 million repairs

Richmond Valley Council has been quick to respond to the impact of the floods with a Richmond Valley Flood 2022 Response document.

The document was given to the Premier Dominic Perrottet on his most recent visit.

The stats and numbers are shocking and provide a snapshot of the scale of the flood disaster.

The full flood response document can be read here.

Here’s a summary.

The cost

To rebuild our communities in the Richmond Valley, $150 million is needed.

It is difficult for the council to know the exact amount but this includes the repair and replacement costs for roads, bridges and sewerage systems.

“The social and economic fabric of the Northern Rivers region is slowly being unravelled as the days and weeks go by,” the report reads.

That is a sad statement, but true. The expectation is that it will take at least three years for the valley to recover.

Homes and buildings damaged

Properties impacted by flooding: 3000

Structures inspected so far: 2333

Destroyed: 30

Damaged: 1142

Undamaged: 1161

With more than 400 homes uninhabitable, 1000 local people are homeless.

At present, flood-affected families are being housed in temporary holiday accommodation, motorhomes and caravan parks, but there is not enough housing to go around.

The council is identifying suitable sites for temporary housing with two viable possibilities in the Mid-Richmond.

Urgent action is required from State and Federal governments to resolve the housing crisis.

Without safe housing, local people will be forced to walk away from the only things they have left – their towns and villages and the social ties that have held them together during this crisis.

Community buildings

Costing for damage to community buildings is estimated at $2 million.

Four community halls at Coraki, Woodburn, Colley Park and Leeville were damaged by floodwaters.

Five public toilets and six emergency buildings were damaged.

There was major damage to the Casino Indoor Sports Stadium, Woodburn Visitors Information Centre and the Woodburn Pool plant room.

Council damage

The council had its own damage to deal with. Three utes, two trucks, a garbage truck, forklift and three ride-on mowers were lost. $970,000 will be needed to  replace them.

Water and sewerage

One of the most important jobs is to repair water services properly after the emergency repairs immediately after the floods.

This was estimated to cost $8 million.

Most importantly, the response document looks at the issues encountered because of the floods and some solutions are given.

One of the issues was the lack of automated monitoring at the council’s sewerage systems.

Another was the lack of back-up power. The flood event saw widespread power outages over many days which impacted water supplies.

Casino’s sewage treatment plant dates from 1930 and a replacement is well overdue, something the council had identified before the floods.

This replacement will cost $25 million and will require government funding.

Roads

If you thought they were bad before the floods, $100 million is needed to repair the roads now. Repairing landslips will cost $14.1 million.

This road network becomes even more important for Broadwater Public School students who now have to travel to Evans Head School after their school was destroyed in floods.

Beef and dairy industries

The full impacts on local beef and dairy producers in the Richmond Valley are not yet known. Assessing how many livestock have been lost, how much fencing and farm equipment was destroyed will take more time.

Local beef and dairy producers have access to the State Government’s agricultural assistance package.

However, the off-farm income restrictions in this package rule out most local producers.

Council was quick to respond to industry needs and re-opened the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange within two days of the flood event.

Sugar industry

Mid Richmond communities rely heavily on Sunshine Sugar’s Broadwater Mill and associated Cape Byron Power facility for direct employment (120+ jobs).

Cane growing also provides substantial employment with the Richmond Valley accounting for 45% of regional cane production.

Restoring the Richmond River

Stabilising and restoring the banks of the Richmond River is an urgent issue.  The sheer force of the floodwaters ripped out trees and other vegetation and severely eroded the bank.

Drone inspections of the riverbank surrounding Casino have been carried out, revealing an 80% loss of vegetation coverage. There is a risk of further damage to infrastructure and homes through landslips and riverbank collapse as sandy loam soils have been destabilised.

Access to specialist expertise and additional funding to stabilise and restore the riverbank over the coming months will be essential

Restoring the river corridor habitat and re-establishing flying fox roosting sites is estimated at $200,000 for replanting.

Council project timeline

The focus on flood repair puts back the timeline for projects including the Rappville sewerage system, the Casino Showground and racecourse upgrade and the Casino industry activation project.

How do we build resilience to future flood disasters?

The council has identified many ways to lessen the impact of a future flood, including:

REVISIT flood modelling;

IMPROVE flood planning;

IMPROVE urban drainage; and

IMPROVE community preparedness.

And to read the full flood response document, go to it here.

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