Decision needed now on buyout of homes in Tweed floodplain


The Tweed Shire Council is calling on the New South Wales government to speed up the voluntary buyout of homes destroyed by recent flooding, to provide viable and safe options for homeowners as soon as possible.

Latest figures say more than 2,100 properties in the Tweed were damaged in the February 2022 flood, with 500 homes deemed no longer habitable.

Floodplain risk management studies undertaken by the Council in 2014 and 2015 recommended a Voluntary Home Purchase Program (VHP) to permanently remove people at risk from high flood risk areas by buying their homes. These properties would then be delineated to allow for uses more compatible with flooding, such as parks or agriculture.

Under this program, the Council’s flood engineers have identified over 140 homes for repurchase. The properties are divided into 2 stages – priority and future – and cover areas such as South Murwillumbah, Bray Park, Burringbar and Mooball.

Homes in additional areas, such as Condong, Tumbulgum and Chinderah, will be considered in a future stage of the program, along with measures to try to help those in high-risk caravan parks and construction options of houses.

The VHP scheme was approved by the NSW Government in 2018. Since then, 11 residential properties have been purchased under the scheme due to limitations in available financial support and imposed eligibility criteria.

Tweed Mayor Councilor Chris Cherry said while the 2022 New South Wales flood inquiry was a critical process in long-term flood mitigation planning, residents could not not wait another six months for the investigation to be completed before making their decision to sell their homes. or rebuild.*

“I understand the government is waiting for the independent review – but time is running out and the floods of 2017 and 2022 are surely saying enough for some homes and properties to be better removed from the floodplain,” said Cr Cherry.

“The government must bear in mind that homeowners are being offered cash settlements by insurance companies now to begin the process of rebuilding in the floodplain.

“Once they put their money back into their homes, they won’t be as motivated to sell under a future voluntary home purchase program – that’s exactly what we experienced after 2017. .”

Councilor Cherry said a new VHP scheme should be accelerated immediately in the Tweed, before the NSW Government finalizes its plans for temporary accommodation sites, known as ‘pods’.

“We are calling for the replacement of our existing VHP program with a new program that is 100% funded by the NSW Government and not subject to limited eligibility constraints as has happened under the New South Wales program. origin,” said Cr Cherry.

“It’s a much wiser use of public funds than immediately offering to buy out high-risk homes.

“This will in turn reduce the number of pods needed and offset the cost of the VHP program. Homeowners can take their VHP money and their insurance money and acquire or build a new home out of the floodplain.

Councilor Cherry said the council had also recommended the state government purchase newly built units in Tweed Heads, to provide longer-term solutions for residents in need of social housing.

“Before spending on temporary housing, it should be assessed whether people entering it would normally qualify for social housing,” Mayor Cherry said.

“If this is the case, it would be wiser to use public funds to acquire housing that can be permanently added to the social housing stock. This could be achieved at around twice the cost of pods and offer a longer term solution to the housing crisis plaguing the Northern Rivers.

Background:

* The NSW Government has commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the February 2022 flood, which will look at preparedness, causes, response and recovery from the disastrous 2022 flood across the state.

Inquiry submissions close on Friday May 20, with an initial report due to the Prime Minister by June 30. The final report is expected by September 30, 2022.

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