Almost a year on from the deadly Lismore floods, the community is still waiting for a single at-risk home to be acquired through a government repair package.
Record-breaking flooding devastated the NSW Northern Rivers in February and March last year, killing five people and destroying 4000 homes.
The unprecedented devastation led to a $520 million (US$359 million) commitment from the state and federal governments to buy homes and land from people living in the most flood-prone parts of the region.
The Northern Rivers Resilient Homes Fund, with a total budget of $800 million, also promised flood victims the opportunity to retrofit, repair, or raise their homes to prevent future flood impacts.
Close to four months on from the government announcement, locals continue to wait for land buybacks or other remediation packages to be handed out.
When asked how many home and land buybacks, retrofitting and home raising packages had been offered, a spokeswoman for the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation told AAP it expected to send offers for buybacks “in early 2023”.
The assessments of more than 6000 registrations were in the “early phase”, she said.
“It is anticipated several homeowner assessments, valuations, and letters of offer for voluntary buybacks under the Resilient Homes Program will be completed in early-2023, with progress updates to be provided to community,” the spokeswoman said.
The corporation’s customer outreach and case management pilot launched in December, and voluntary buybacks in the areas most at risk of renewed flooding were being prioritised.
“This early phase involves more than 130 homeowners, with the program to ramp up across the region this month,” she said.
More than 6,500 people have registered for the suite of offers, including buybacks, repair, retrofitting, home raising or knockdown and rebuild.
Another 300 landowners have registered their interest in the $100 million Resilient Land Program, where the NSW government will relocate residents to a new land safe from flood impact.
Land assessments were underway, and a shortlist of landholdings was expected by March, she said.
A man pushes water out of a flood-affected business in Lismore, Australia, on March 31, 2022. (Dan Peled/Getty Images)
The corporation had held almost 50 meetings with the community and stakeholders over the past three months, she said.
It comes after a community-led rally outside the corporation’s headquarters in Lismore last month, with protesters holding placards saying “We need answers” and “Living in Limbo—No Really Real Communication.”
Shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey said locals had already suffered through a slow response to the flood from the government’s disaster-response agency Resilience NSW.
“I would hate to think that the victims of the floods would be left at the mercy of a bureaucracy,” he told reporters last week.
“I think there’s a bipartisan agreement to get this done as fast as possible.”
The NSW government introduced legislation to create the Reconstruction Authority in November, making the body the lead agency for disaster management and cleanup.
The authority, which will replace the since-abolished Resilience NSW, will merge with the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Authority in March.