New agency to lead NSW disaster recovery and resilience

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed last week his government will set up a reconstruction body able to compulsorily acquire land in high disaster-prone areas.

Responding to the NSW Floods Inquiry report prepared by former police commissioner Mick Fuller and Independent Planning Commission chair Mary O’Kane, Mr Perrottet said flood-affected communities in the state’s Northern River region would be built back stronger and more resilient.

To be known as the NSW Reconstruction Authority (NSWRA), the new agency will be based on the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) and will focus on long-term goals such as infrastructure rebuilding and prevention.

Mr Perrottet said his government would accept all 28 recommendations of the report, including that it advocates through the National Cabinet to widen eligibility under the Disaster Funding Recovery Arrangements to allow local councils to build back better.

The Government, through NSWRA, will work with local governments to build disaster adaption plans for each city and town, “with planning instruments discouraging (and in many cases forbidding) development in disaster-likely areas”.

To enhance disaster preparedness, response and recovery, Resilience NSW will be transitioned to a new agency, Recovery NSW.

A further recommendation is for the Government to adopt a disaster cost-benefit framework to enable funding for flood modification and property modification measures, including buy-back schemes and relocations, to be allocated more promptly.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) welcomed Mr Perrottet’s response to the report, having made a submission to the inquiry.

“We look forward to further discussions with the NSW Government on this issue, including how we can continue to work together to plan, fund, and resource the work of councils to not only manage their communities’ capacity to recover and rebuild from disasters but also build future resilience,” LGNSW President Darriea Turley said.

In related news, the Albanese Government today announced a $75 million investment in flood mitigation and infrastructure resilience programs for NSW to be delivered across the 62 local government areas (LGAs) that were disaster-declared after the February-March floods.

The program includes:

  • $40 million for flood infrastructure grants for councils and government agencies for flood mitigation projects, including funding for home raising projects;
  • $15 million for flood warning gauges: support for councils and government agencies to install, upgrade and operate flood warning gauges, systems, and associated advice to make the community aware of the warning system;
  • $14 million for a levee assessment and improvement program: flood impact assessments of flood mitigation infrastructure damaged by the flood event. These assessments will be used as the basis for flood mitigation repairs and improvements;
  • $5 million for valley level flood assessments: to provide improved information for flood risk management and emergency management decisions, and support improved state-wide understanding of flood risk; and
  • $1 million for a flood infrastructure impact assessment and report: to outline flood infrastructure impacts, available information on the relative rarity of the flood at key locations, and identify known priority flood risk management measures.