Flood recovery stuff-up gets an apology – and still we wait

Susanna Freymark

The stuff-up about the number of homes that would be getting a buyback, house raise or retrofit deserves an apology, Simon Draper said.

IndyNR.com interviewed NSW Reconstruction Authority chief executive Simon Draper and he said the information given was incorrect and it had a negative impact on the community.

The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation said 6500 homes would be assisted with buybacks, house raises and retrofits. There was $750million to do this.

As it turns out, the number of homes to be assisted is less than 2000 total and when that was announced by the Reconstruction Authority, residents felt let down.

“For what it’s worth, I’ve apologised on behalf of the government,” Mr Draper said.

“It deserves an apology.

“I’m guessing there was an intention by the government (of the day) to have a broader program and provide hope.”

IndyNR.com asked whether areas like Woodburn could have a different home recovery program because there was no flood-free land available. Instead of buybacks which meant people would have to leave the village, could there be a more comprehensive house raising program?

“There is scope for that,” Mr Draper said.

“Raising was always part of the program.”

For example, some homes might need to be moved but remain on the same property.

A more “bespoke” program was needed for areas such as Woodburn and Broadwater,” he said.

Solutions would be on a case by case basis, he said.

It was going to take a few months to sort out the buyback offers.

Decisions would be made once it was clear how much was left from the $750million after the buyback round, he said.

Resident Luke O’Driscoll spent his own money to raise his Broadwater house with the expectation he would be refunded.

Unless a firm offer had been made, he and others like him were unlikely to be reimbursed, Mr Draper said.

“We want to discourage people from jumping the gun.”

It wasn’t fair on those waiting, he said.

He also said he was looking at the Bungawalbin levee and the Woodburn IGA.

“The IGA anchors the community and our team has been talking to the owner,” Mr Draper said.

The levee and the supermarket do not “neatly fit into the programs announced”.

He used the word bespoke again to find a solution to this.

The changes with the NSW Reconstruction Authority leading the flood recovery include engaging more with community leaders, local councils and community organisations.

“I’m quite optimistic,” he said.

“I do think it is easier to have discussions on the long-term future when life has returned to some normality.”

The outreach staff were working with people who hadn’t accessed any support programs, he said.

How do we know whether Mr Draper is just another talking head?

“Wait and see what happens,” he said.

“I’ll talk to anybody.

“We have already changed lots of policy based on discussions.”

The proof of the authority will be in outcomes, he said.

Read pages of local flood stories here.

We don’t give a bugger what they’re called — locals want flood recovery action

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