Lismore City News
Saturday, 2 December 2023

Questions over NSW flood victims' buyback

By Maureen Dettre
Updated August 18 2022 - 12:33pm, first published 12:29pm
More than a thousand people lost homes in the NSW Northern Rivers floods. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)
More than a thousand people lost homes in the NSW Northern Rivers floods. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Eligibility criteria for a government buyback scheme for people whose homes were devastated in the NSW Northern Rivers floods is months from being finalised.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said he'd spoken with Prime Minster Anthony Albanese about joint government funding for the scheme after releasing an inquiry report on the floods in Lismore on Wednesday.

Mr Perrottet unveiled an ambitious multi-billion dollar plan to prevent northern flood prone areas avoid future catastrophes by flagging land swaps and buyback provisions.

"We'll put together a criteria of who would qualify for this buyback scheme," he told ABC TV from Ballina on Thursday.

"By the end of the year we should have that criteria in place and provide that certainty to people eligible for the scheme."

More than a thousand people lost homes and around 1400 are still in emergency accommodation after the catastrophic inundation of thousands of residences in the Northern Rivers in February and March.

Expressions of interest in the buyback plan will open at the end of the month but so far there's little detail about who is eligible.

Mr Perrottet acknowledged there was still "a lot of pain and distress in the communities" but cited significant progress.

"We're seeing businesses start to reopen, which is incredibly pleasing, but there's a long journey ahead.

"We still have over a thousand people who have lost their homes and we're working on a whole range of measures to help."

The government was committed to long-term solutions, he said.

"We can't keep doing the same things over and over again once these disasters hit.

"We're very much committed to making sure that ... those areas that have been hardest hit, have a strong future."

The inquiry report outlined 28 recommendations and a recovery strategy including a new disaster prevention authority, rescue training for residents in prone areas and a back office merger of emergency services.

The federal government says it will provide $13.1 million in targeted mental health support to address the impact on the wellbeing and mental health of individuals and communities.

Health Minister Minster Mark Butler says ongoing trauma can manifest in increased rates of anxiety, post-traumatic stress and domestic and family violence.

Grants will provide communities with an opportunity to drive projects aimed at building resilience, social connectedness and help with loss, anxiety and distress.

"Mental health is one of the government's highest priorities and I recognise that these flooding events have been hugely traumatic for many people," he said.

"For some of these communities, this has been their fourth flood in 18 months."

Australian Associated Press