September 26, 2022

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The New South Wales government will accept all of the 28 key recommendations put forward in the state’s flood inquiry report, including the implementation of a disaster prevention authority, in an effort to overhaul the previous disaster response.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet vowed to build back flood-ruined communities in the Northern Rivers to make them stronger and more resilient after much of the region disappeared underwater six months ago.

“I will keep coming back again until we implement all of these recommendations, until every single person in the Northern Rivers is back in a home,” Perrottet said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the government has accepted all 28 flood response recommendations in the recent flood report.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the government has accepted all 28 flood response recommendations handed down in the recent flood report. (9News)

The 700-page report, compiled by former NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller and chief scientist Mary O’Kane, made a number of recommendations.

Perrottet said some of the key results of the report will be:

  • Establishing a permanent SES centre led by a new NSW Deputy Police Commissioner
  • Resilience NSW will become Recovery NSW and focus on the first 100 days after a disaster
  • Establishing a new cabinet committee called Task Force Hawk, which will be “ready to respond at any moment at any time there is a major natural disaster”
  • The back office of the SES and RFS will be merged, although there will be no change to either organisation’s front office
  • Emergency response training for community members

The premier also said a permanent reconstruction body with legislative powers will be established to help plan for the future.

Based on the Queensland reconstruction authority, the group will be in place to look at options such as a buyback scheme and land swaps for flood-prone areas.

“We are committed to ensuring that as we have future development that it doesn’t occur in areas which are subject to significant flooding,” Perrottet said.

The residents of Lismore and the greater Northern Rivers region have waited for months to hear if the state government will announce a buyback scheme or if their properties can be relocated.

Perrottet said that many locals are still a long way from recovery, with more than 1000 residents homeless.

Lismore floods March 2022
The extent of the flooding across Lismore as seen from above at the beginning of March, 2022. (Mark Stehle)

“In addition to that, those people who have lost their homes, who are in dire circumstances, we will work as a result of this report to implement a buyback scheme that will be targeted in specific areas,” Perrottet said.

“I know for many people that will provide uncertainty today in terms of eligibility but that is something we need to work through.”

By the end of August, the state government will open expressions of interest for landholders and will look at public land which may be available.

“That work commences today and I want to make this very clear as well: We are going to rebuild these communities,” he said.

“This is a long journey that is in front of us and we need to make sure we rebuild in a resilient way, in a way that keeps the character and the charm of these wonderful communities in the northern rivers.”

Chief scientist O’Kane, who contributed to the report, said the impact of climate change on the freak storms that flooded much of the Northern Rivers is hard to determine.

The flood crisis was the worst the city has seen in decades. (Nine)

“I want to make a few comments about the weather. Australians love the weather. And one of the things we don’t know enough (is) how much of this was climate change,” she said.

“We do know the storms were not particularly unusual.

“We know from round here in the 1890s for example, there were several east coast lows, one after the another, but what was unusual was the intensity of the rain and the rain stalled, unfortunately right over Lismore.

“We saw this in the more recent floods over the Hawkesbury-Nepean.”

O’Kane said the impact of climate change needs to be taken into consideration when planning for these disasters and educating the community.

“We also emphasise the importance of kids knowing about things.”

The report also looks at changing the way the flood plains are looked at and utilised.

“One important aspect is we say the floodplains should be recognised as assets. But not assets that we live on. Assets that can be used for renewable energy, parks, biodiversity offsets,” O’Kane said.

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