Listen to the silence: Still no details on buybacks and land swaps

ABOVE: View of the flood at Field and Flower farm on the Coraki-Woodburn Rd. Photo: Field & Flower

Susanna Freymark

As the first anniversary of the floods approaches, residents are still wondering about buybacks, retrofitting and land swaps.

They are still waiting to make decisions about their homes.

The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation has not let residents know the options available to them.

Not yet.

State MP Janelle Saffin said that while she has worked well with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, its main failing is one of communication.

She has called on the State Government to have a greater sense of urgency and to improve its communications with local residents sweating on decisions about the Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs.

“I’m fielding a constant stream of questions from locals desperate about their individual housing situations and wondering what they should be doing while waiting for voluntary buybacks or house raising or retrofitting,” Ms Saffin said.

“There is also the bigger plan in terms of assessing expressions of interest for securing suitable flood-free land which can be offered to people who get a buyback, and this brings in relocatables.”

 Ms Saffin wrote to NRRC chief executive David Witherdin asking for a detailed briefing on the Resilient Homes and Resilient Land programs.

“I need to be well briefed so I can answer my constituents’ questions about our flood recovery. Otherwise, people will be left in limbo land and community frustration with the process will grow,” Ms Saffin said.

“I’m looking forward to Mr Witherdin briefing me after he returns from leave later this month.”

Mr Witherdin will at the Northern Rivers Flood Action Group community meeting at Woodburn Hall at 4.30pm on Tuesday, January 31.

He will also be at a Resilient Homes Program pop-up session in Kyogle on Thursday, March 9, 10am–noon on the lawn between Kyogle Council Chambers and the Kyogle Library in Stratheden St.

Other pop-up sessions will be held at:

Rappville: Tuesday, January 31, 10am-12pm, Rappville Sports Ground

Woodburn: Wednesday, February 15, 10am-12pm, Woodburn Riverside Park

Broadwater: Wednesday, February 15, 2pm-4pm, Broadwater Memorial Park

Coraki: Tuesday, February 21, 10am-12pm, Coraki Riverside Park

Ms Saffin has a list of issues she wants immediate answers to from Mr Witherdin.

These are:

● Release of the coloured zone maps for voluntary buybacks (including relocatables), voluntary house raising and retrofitting so residents at least know where they stand. These maps should be publicly available.

● The flood heights the corporation is using for the mapping.

● A potential date for the first approvals under the categories.

● Total number of expressions of interest and the number of case managers.

● An average value of a buyback offer, given the commitment that these will be based on pre-flood market values. What is the marker for this?

● Progress with land acquisition and land swaps, and a plan for people who want to buy, rebuild or relocate.

At the end of August, the NSW Government announced a buyback, rebuild, land swap scheme.

The community meetings will come more than five months after that.

We don’t know how much money will be offered for a buyback, how much money will be offered for a rebuild or what the land swaps will involve.

The community waits.

A house floating down Richmond River. Photo: Contributed

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