Thousands of property owners in flood-ravaged northern New South Wales are being reassured their homes will not necessarily be condemned.
- NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says around 2,000 homes need to be “rebuilt”
- But planning and legal experts say ‘unsafe’ homes could be repaired
- Councils must assist displaced residents with alternative accommodation
Premier Dominic Perrottet said this morning around 2,000 homes in Lismore had been assessed by the State Emergency Service (SES) or Australian Defense Force and deemed “not habitable”.
“They will need to be rebuilt,” Mr Perrottet said.
Lismore City Council general manager John Walker said the process of condemning buildings was complex and any initial assessment needed to be followed up before a demolition or rebuild occurred.
“In the majority of cases people will not have to worry.”
Mr Walker advised owners of properties assessed as “unsafe” to engage a builder or engineer for a second assessment and advice.
He said the council could also provide further assessment, but the sheer scale of inspections required across the Northern Rivers could result in lengthy delays.
Please for chance to repair
Laurie Axtens, his mother Val, and brother Chris are among those having difficulty finding mid-term accommodation while they repair their Lismore home.
“We’ll be going back into our home,” Mr Axtens said.
Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, who also has not been able to return to her flooded home, said she expected every follow-up building assessment would be unique.
“Some have gone off their stumps — obviously they’re unsafe — but some of them can be made liveable again while other people will want them made more flood-resistant,” she said.
Sue Higginson, a Lismore-based environmental lawyer and incoming Greens MLC, said under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act council had the power to issue development control orders, including demolition.
“The council must issue an order and provide an opportunity for the owner to respond — including fixing the premises — and this requires providing time,” Ms Higginson said.
She also said the council must consider whether its orders would result in homelessness and, if so, the resident must be provided with “information as to the availability of satisfactory alternative accommodation”.
“We are in new territory with [more than] 1,000 homes and buildings to have experienced such substantial damage, and there will be more.”