To raise or not to raise and wait? Voluntary house raising scheme will take some time

Susanna Freymark

My house was flooded and I want to raise it? When can I do it?

And do I get financial help from the government or the council?

It will take until the end of next year before the details of the voluntary house raising scheme are sorted.

This isn’t what homeowners want to hear. They want to make a decision now. Do they use flood recovery grants or home insurance payouts to raise their house? If they do, they won’t be refunded when the house raising scheme details are confirmed.

They are in a bind. If they wait, it will be a year and a half before they know if they are eligible for the scheme.

There has not been such a scheme in the Richmond Valley since 2008 because no one has asked for it, the council’s general manager Vaughan Macdonald said.

The floods in March changed all that.

“In most cases development in Richmond Valley is flood resilient,” Mr Macdonald said.

In places like Woodburn where most houses are raised, people know the bottom floor gets wet and they deal with it, he said.

The big flood that was two metres higher than any flood seen in Richmond Valley blew the council’s flood modelling ‘out of the water.’ The modelling has to be redone.

Generally, two thirds of the cost of raising a house out of a flood zone are funded by the State Government and the other third by the homeowner, Mr Macdonald said.

“Should ratepayers fund capital investment in someone’s home?”

Richmond Valley Council does not pay for the house raising, he said.

The council finished the flood modelling of the region at the beginning of February.

They were ready to consult the community when the floods hit, Mr Macdonald said.

The State Government has asked all flood impacted councils including Lismore to review their flood modelling.

“That will take six months,” Mr Macdonald said.

“There have to be surveys of the (new) high-water marks.”

Once the council’s modelling is reviewed, the next step is a Floodplain Risk Management Plan where the council makes decisions about high-risk flood areas.

That will take a year.

At the moment, houses have to be lower than the 1 in 50 year flood level to qualify for house raising.

“We have a measure for each property,” Mr Macdonald.

The State Government’s inquiry may make recommendations to all the councils about flood modelling.

But that is an unknown right now.

Unfortunately, patience is required from homeowners at a time when they need certainty.

Flooding in Woodburn. Photo: Contributed
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