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Relief for Flood Impacted Homes to Come Soon

September 1, 2022
Flo Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024

Major floods struck the Northern Rivers in early 2022, causing devastating outcomes. Lives were lost, and thousands were left homeless. In response, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet initiated a Flood Inquiry in March 2022, with the final report completed in August. The Premier confirmed that the state would follow the recommendations outlined in the independent Flood Inquiry Report.

Flood Inquiry Report

The report focuses on improving flood preparation and response and includes 28 recommendations. Six of these are fully supported by the NSW government, while the remaining 22 are "supported in principle," requiring further work on implementation.

Buyback and Land Swap Scheme

Mr. Perrottet confirmed that his administration would initiate a buyback and land swap scheme. Importantly, this scheme will be voluntary, meaning there will be no compulsory acquisition of people's homes.

“This will be a targeted approach in relation to a buyback or a land swap scheme. We have committed to doing that as part of our response,” said Premier Perrottet.

Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation

On 1 July 2022, the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) was established. The NRRC will manage the rebuilding of these communities by coordinating planning, rebuilding, and construction work across multiple government agencies. It is also responsible for the Northern Rivers buyback scheme, which offers land to be bought from owners based on “pre-flood valuations.” CEO David Witherdin stated that "independent valuers will come in, arrive at a value, and then there would be a negotiation process."

Resilient Homes Program

The Resilient Homes Program is still current and accepting applications. Before applying, homeowners are encouraged to seek professional legal advice from FM Legal to ensure their best interests are fully protected.

Eligibility: The scheme targets homeowners in the most vulnerable areas of the Northern Rivers region in NSW, particularly those where major flooding poses a "catastrophic risk to life." This includes residents in:

  • Lismore

  • Ballina

  • Byron

  • Clarence Valley

  • Kyogle

  • Richmond Valley

  • Tweed

Funding: The program is a joint initiative between the Federal and NSW governments, with a total budget of $800 million.

Options: Residents can choose between three options:

  • Voluntary buyback: The government purchases the flood-prone property at a fair market value.

  • House raising: Financial assistance to raise an existing home above the expected flood level.

Retrofitting: Funding to modify an existing property to improve its flood resilience.

Application Process

The application involves a 3-step process:

  1. Registration: Complete the online application form on the Resilient Homes Program website.

  2. Welcome: Applicants will be contacted to discuss what’s involved and be connected with a case manager.

  3. Information Collection: Applicants must provide pertinent documents required for the assessment.

Assessment and Approval

After completing the application, an assessment follows, which involves a home visit for property valuation purposes. Homeowners who have already received a Home Assessment under the Flood Property Assessment Program (FPAP) or Disaster Relief Grant (DRG) may not require a new inspection.

Once assessments are reviewed and approved by the Resilient Homes Program Approval Panel, prioritised homeowners will receive an offer for any of the options mentioned earlier.

Accepting or Rejecting Offers

Applicants can accept or reject the offer. If needed, an internal review or appeal can be requested. An applicant can ask for an extension in writing if 90 days is not sufficient to consider the offer.

Criticism and Current Status

Initially, the scheme aimed to support around 2,000 residents. However, reports suggest the number eligible for buybacks might have been halved due to updated flood mapping, causing frustration among some residents. While the program was announced in early 2023, information on the latest number of participants or the completion rate is scarce, indicating the scheme may still be in its early stages.

FM Legal continues to monitor the Northern Rivers buyback scheme and provide updates as more information becomes available. Stay tuned for further developments.

For expert advice on your eligibility and the best course of action under the Northern Rivers buy back scheme, contact FM Legal today.

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