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‘It takes time’: Premier defends Lismore buyback scheme

Dominic Perrottet says it will take time for buyback offers to be made to Lismore flood victims.

Dominic Perrottet says it will take time for buyback offers to be made to Lismore flood victims. Photo: Getty

The NSW Premier has defended the speed at which survivors of the deadly Lismore floods are receiving offers to buy back their water-damaged homes.

The first home buyback offers were made on Tuesday, nearly a year after floodwaters swept through more than 3000 homes in the Northern Rivers city.

All 250 owners in the area deemed most at risk of renewed flooding will receive offers by the end of April, the government said.

The $520 million buyback scheme was flagged in August and unveiled in October. But Premier Dominic Perrottet said the offers wouldn’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to take time,” he said on Wednesday.

Lismore residents start over

The government was consulting “very closely” with people about buying back their homes in flood-prone areas and unlocking land to facilitate relocations to areas less affected by significant flood events, he said.

“The long-term plan is to get people into homes that are not affected by flooding in a way that works in with the local community,” he said.

“It’s not for the government to come in and dictate to locals in relation to what they should do or where they should live.”

While he and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had put significant funding on the table, Mr Perrottet said there remained “many people in Northern Rivers who still don’t have a home”.

“It is an incredibly, incredibly difficult time for so many,” he said.

Record flooding hit the Northern Rivers in February and March last year, killing five people, destroying 4000 homes and leaving communities devastated.

The destruction led to a $700 million commitment from the state and federal government, with $520 million allocated to buying back properties from people living in flood-prone areas.

Further funding was for flood-proofing homes through retrofitting, house raising and repair, for which the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation has received more than 6000 applications.

In January, Lismore locals protested outside the NRRC, accusing it of failing to communicate with them.

Such was the community frustration, the Greens reckon the Labor-held seat is within their grasp in the March state election, notwithstanding the government being led by Liberals and Nationals.

Once buybacks were complete, approvals for flood-proofing would flow, NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole said.

“The first buyback offers mark an important milestone for the recovery of the Northern Rivers,” he said.

“This can give the community the confidence that we are moving forward with our promised support and confirms we will leave no one behind on the recovery ahead.”

All residents registered with the Resilient Homes Program will be contacted about their eligibility for a buyback, house raising or retrofitting packages, NRRC chief David Witherdin said.

“[I] want everyone to know we are committed to working with and listening to the community, ensuring homeowners have the information they need and providing access to independent support and advisory services,” he said.

-AAP

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