Lismore City News
Saturday, 2 December 2023

Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation to oversee Lismore flood recovery

Cathy Adams
Updated April 20 2022 - 1:03pm, first published April 14 2022 - 1:25pm

Update: Two months after floods devastated Lismore, it is hoped a new flood recovery body will help to cut red tape as Lismore struggles to rebuild.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin joined Premier Dominic Perrottet and Deputy Premier Paul Toole in Lismore on Tuesday for the announcement of the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation to lead the flood rebuilding effort.


Ms Saffin has been advocating for a reconstruction commission every day since the February 28 flood disaster and she welcomed the Premier's announcement.

"Today is a good day. Today we turn a corner in flood recovery.

"The Premier and Deputy Premier have announced what I have been calling for - a single, coordinated whole of government approach to the permanent recovery and rebuilding of our flood affected communities.

"The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation will coordinate planning, rebuilding and construction work across multiple government agencies to help us rebuild our lives and communities. It will take account of mitigation and adaptation measures that are needed to rebuild back better and preparedness."

"The NRRC will sit within the Department of Regional NSW and be led by David Witherdin, who currently leads Public Works and the Soil Conservation Service.

"I have met with David Witherdin and I have confidence he has the competence and competence required for the role.

"The NRRC will be supported by a community advisory body made up of local representatives who have the requisite skill, knowledge and attitude required to undertake such a role."

"I have stated that putting the community front and centre is recognition of the critical role the community played in the flood rescue and recovery and the Premier recognised that today in the announcement."

"The Premier said that he has our back and will work with us for the long haul for this huge recovery job ahead. Today's announcement has demonstrated that.

" I thank The Leader of the NSW Opposition Chris Minns for the support he has extended to me, backing my efforts but leaving me to do what is best for our community, and for publicly now backing today's announcement."

"I am pleased to be able to report back to the community with this positive news, as we enter the eighth week of disaster recovery.

"I want to thank all who backed my sustained and strategic advocacy for this Northern Rivers reconstruction body to be established, including Business NSW and Southern Cross University.

"It shows that effective advocacy with local leadership for a common cause gets results.

Original story: After weeks of lobbying led by Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, a Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation will be established to lead the long-term reconstruction of flood impacted areas across northern NSW.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was in Lismore to announce the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Commission with Mayor Steve Krieg and Lismore MP Janelle Saffin. Picture Cathy Adams
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was in Lismore to announce the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Commission with Mayor Steve Krieg and Lismore MP Janelle Saffin. Picture Cathy Adams

Premier Dominic Perrottet was joined by local mayors and State members to announce the appointment of David Witherdin as the CEO of the corporation, which will stay in place for three to five years.

The Premier said there was a long journey ahead to rebuild after the catastrophic floods but assured the community "we've got your back".

Mr Perrottet vowed, "not one person will be left behind on the Northern Rivers", but acknowledged there were many challenges to overcome - such as getting money into pockets sooner and finding housing for the many displaced people.

"We know that getting people back on their feet, getting people back into homes, rebuilding towns and communities takes time, and this corporation will ensure we build back stronger, better and in a way that protects people well into the future."

CEO of the new Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, David Witherdin. Picture: Cathy Adams
CEO of the new Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, David Witherdin. Picture: Cathy Adams

Mr Perrottet said a key component of the corporation will be consultation with the community, and it will work with councils to identify, prioritise and support projects that can rejuvenate communities within the Northern Rivers area, with a particular emphasis on housing and supporting social infrastructure.

The new body will also have the power to compulsorily acquire or subdivide land, speed up and fast-track the building of new premises and accelerate delivery of planning proposals through the Department of Planning and Environment. The insurance, construction and infrastructure sectors will be important contributors, alongside local government, industry, businesses and residents.

Mr Perrottet said these new powers were not something to be afraid of, and would be used only after full consultation.

The corporation will also consider and implement the findings from a flood inquiry to be led by Profeessor Mary Okane.

Ms Saffin has been urging the appointment of a reconstruction commission since the first flood devastated Lismore.

"The catastrophic weather event of February 28 was not like any other flood. This was a National Disaster comparable only to Cyclone Tracy wiping out Darwin and it demands a comparable recovery and reconstruction response. A Reconstruction Commission will help us better map out the road to recovery."

The NRRC will work within Ballina, Byron Bay, Kyogle, Tweed, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley and Lismore LGAs.

Cathy Adams

Cathy Adams