THE NSW Government has announced it will buy back and demolish homes in high flood-prone areas across the Tweed following the destructive floods which devastated towns in the area last year.
The government has approved new and expanded Voluntary House Purchase (VHP) schemes for residential areas in South Murwillumbah, Bray Park, Burringbar, Mooball and Crabbes Creek.
The aim of the scheme is to permanently remove people from high flood-prone areas by buying their houses and back-zoning the properties for more flood compatible uses, such as parkland or farming.
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The Office of Environment and Heritage has also approved new Voluntary House Raising (VHR) schemes for the same areas.
“Voluntary House Purchase was a recommendation of Council’s Floodplain Risk Management Studies completed in 2014 and 2015 as there are no feasible alternatives to protect these areas from flood risk, such as levees or improved evacuation access,” Manager Roads and Stormwater Danny Rose said.
“Our studies also considered including other flood-prone villages, such as Condong and Tumbulgum, in a VHP scheme but they were not recommended for the initial schemes.”
Prior to the March 2017 flood, Council had one VHP scheme operating along the Tweed River in parts of River Street, South Murwillumbah, with four houses still eligible for purchase.
Properties purchased have been turned into open space for the community.
Council is currently reviewing its flood data with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to identify and prioritise those people and their homes most at risk in major floods.
“We cannot purchase every flood-affected house in the eligible areas so we will target those houses where we can get the most benefit in terms of improving safety and minimising losses during floods,” Mr Rose said.
“We also need to be mindful of an area’s potential, if freed up, to allow for safer flood flows or what other use it could serve in improving our flood management.
“It is very early days but once we have identified the individual homes we want to buy, we will speak directly with the homeowners to see if they are interested in selling.
“If they choose not to, we will move to the next house on our priority list.”
Under VHP schemes, the price paid for a home (compensation) is determined by an independent valuer with the Office of Environment and Heritage paying two-thirds of the price and Council picking up the rest.
While there is no application process for homeowners, anyone who wishes to express an interest in participating in the VHP scheme can email their property and contact details to email@example.com or write to PO Box 816 Murwillumbah NSW 2484.
Further information on how these schemes work can be found here.