Northern Rivers declared formal reconstruction area giving green light to rebuild
The NSW Government has declared the Northern Rivers a formal reconstruction area to help support the building of homes after last year’s devastating floods.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said the declaration allows the NSW Reconstruction Authority (NSWRA) to make prompt decisions to influence reconstruction and aligns with the election commitment to accelerate the approval of new housing, raising homes and approving residential development and subdivisions on low-risk land in the Northern Rivers.
“We know this has been an uphill battle since the floods last year and we want to do the best we can to re-build the Northern Rivers community in the way which works for you. This reconstruction order allows the Authority to use its powers to subdivide land, demolish buildings, repair or renovate buildings,” Mr Scully said.
“It will also allow the Authority to set out and construct roads as well as use its powers to consider new homes and supporting infrastructure outside of traditional residential areas helping address housing shortages and affordability in the region.”
The order means the Authority can use its powers including:
- give a ‘notice to decide’ to a decision maker to expedite the making of a significant reconstruction decision
- give a ‘progression notice’ to a decision maker to expedite the completion of a reconstruction process
- give a ‘step-in notice’, with the approval of the Minister, allowing the Authority to make an assessment and decision about a particular decision or process
- exercise discretionary powers in relation to land.
“In addition to this order, we’ve listened to Lismore Council and the community and decided to dissolve the Lismore Planning Panel which was installed by the former government, following a number of visits to the Northern Rivers. I have been on the ground speaking directly to the community, council and Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin MP, who have made it clear the panel wasn’t required,” he said.
“While planning panels are very effective in other parts of the state, providing transparent advice and technical expertise, it was the wrong decision to establish one at Lismore. Therefore, I’ve decided to dissolve the panel and return decision making of development applications to Council.”
Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said the dissolution of the panel and the declaration order were the step in the right direction but more needed to be done to help the Northern Rivers rebuild.
“Council and the NSWRA will get on with the job of rebuilding the Northern Rivers which continues to be challenging. We have watched in despair as thousands of properties were damaged or destroyed last year and we are still in the middle of a tough recovery, and we know we will face floods again,” Ms Saffin said.
“However, I welcome the announcement because it will help the Northern Rivers to rebuild and help reduce the loss of life and property in the future.”
Other planning initiatives that were introduced as part of the Lismore Flood Recovery Planning Package to fast-track recovery efforts will remain in place, as we continue to help the region get back on its feet.
The NSW Reconstruction Authority Act was passed by Parliament in November 2022 and there is an expectation that similar declarations will be made following future major disasters.