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Lismore pressing for floods retreat plan funding

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Lismore City Council GM John Walker says state and federal funding totalling hundreds of millions of dollars will be required for a property retreat plan to go ahead, as the city seeks to protect the community from future devasting floods.

Mr Walker told a community meeting earlier this week that funding needs could reach at least $400 million, based on about 1000 houses and possible values. The proposal and how it would be implemented will depend on government funds and local consultations.

“That is not a lot of money when you compare it with the cost of repair and restitution,” he told the meeting. “If people believe that is what they want, then we need the strength of advocacy the strength of the community voice to say ‘it is a cheap option, put it there now, so we can get on with it’”.

The council last week held two meetings on a discussion paper that outlines proposals for the future, including a planned retreat from the most high risk areas of North and South Lismore.

Under the proposal, council will advocate for a state and federal government to make funds available for a voluntary land swap arrangement or buy-backs to allow residents to move to higher ground while remaining close to existing social networks and jobs.

Mr Walker says there is some urgency in deciding the way forward, and the community must put forward its views as a new Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation announced by the NSW State Government begins work and other inquiries look at the issues.

“Clearly there is no business as usual. Climate changes effects are with us,” he told the meeting. “There’s likely to be more extreme and frequent rain events and floods, and of course, with that, the city’s becoming uninsurable.”

The discussion paper also suggests establishing a new commercial or mixed-used precinct on golf course land in East Lismore as part of its longer term planning and proposes protection of the central business district and land on the eastern side of Wilsons River through flood mitigation measures.