Building on Floodplains Over: Leaders

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Governments have called an end to housing developments on floodplains as a major buyback scheme is unveiled for people affected by catastrophic flooding in the New South Wales (NSW) Northern Rivers.

The $520 million (US$335 million) buyback scheme is the centrepiece of an $800 million package co-funded by the NSW and federal governments to give 2000 flood-impacted residents the opportunity to raise, repair or retrofit their houses.

For homes in the most at-risk areas of Lismore and the surrounding Northern Rivers region, governments will offer to buy the home and land from the owner.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the package offers a way forward for communities devastated by repeated flooding this year.

“This is the biggest agreement of its kind, ever, in response to a very significant event,” he told reporters in Lismore on Friday.

But Albanese said governments couldn’t keep allowing homes to be built in harm’s way as climate change fuelled an increase in natural disasters.

“We need to respond as governments, not political parties,” he said, standing alongside NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

“We need to do better on planning, but we also need to do better than thinking we can just do the same thing over and over again.”

The premier will lead a discussion at an upcoming national cabinet meeting about improving planning to ensure floodplain developments don’t continue.

Mr Perrottet said rebuilding with resilience in mind would avoid past mistakes, adding the days of developing floodplains in the state were over.

“I’ve already spoken to the planning minister in relation to this,” he said.

“It makes absolutely no sense for us to make this announcement today and then still continue to develop on floodplains – it’s not going to happen anymore in NSW, I can tell you that.”

Funding from the program will be open to residents impacted by the floods in February and March in the Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed local government areas.

The voluntary buyback scheme will be offered from Monday to homeowners in the most vulnerable parts of the Northern Rivers, where renewed flooding continues to pose a serious risk.

They will be offered money to raise, repair or retrofit their property, or sell it to the government based on expert assessments of the damage, its safety risks and potential future flood levels.

“Almost everyone who has been significantly affected and would qualify for this program would have already had an assessment,” Perrottet said.

Those eligible will be given a payment based on a valuation of the home and land.

Up to $100,000 will be available to raise homes and up to $50,000 for retrofitting in cases where flood risk can be mitigated by better building.

The state government will also spend $100 million buying new land in flood-safe locations for new developments with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation.



Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.

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