Sydney Flood Buyout Scheme

Thousands of residents cleaning up after another flood have received an offer that not everyone will like.

There are calls to buy houses in Sydney that have been repeatedly flooded.

Thousands of homes affected by the floods this month have barely recovered from the previous event and will face certain problems in the future.

Sydney think tank committee calls for a buyback scheme targeting the Hawkesbury-Neping floodplain.

“Thousands of Sydney residents are returning to flood-hit homes wondering how they are going to rebuild them again,” said Sam Kernaghan, director of the Sydney Committee’s Resilience Programme.

“Many have not yet completed the renovation of their homes after the last flood.

“The time for delays and debates is over. Now we need a buyout program for the Hawkesbury-Neping floodplain.”

An estimated 140,000 people live or work on the floodplain, with over 36,700 dwellings.

Approximately 6,000 properties are below the planned flood level, which is considered to have a one percent annual flood probability factor.

Mr. Kernaghan advocates an initial voluntary buyout of these homes, with the possibility of further expansion in the future as more areas become uninsurable or heavily affected by flooding.

“The flooding in these parts of Sydney has not stopped and climate change projections indicate that rainfall like that experienced in 2021 and 2022 will become more frequent and intense in the future,” he said.

According to Infrastructure NSW, the number of dwellings at or below flood level once every hundred years is approaching 7,600.

The purchase price of these properties is estimated to be around $5.2 billion.

“Many of these facilities are located in areas that are used for agricultural and horticultural purposes,” said an Infrastructure NSW spokesperson.

“When applying a buyback scheme in the valley, the variety of forms built, heritage issues, and how to apply them equitably must be taken into account.”

Some say that increasing the height of the Warragamba Dam, which flows into the Hawkesbury Nepean River, would be cheaper and more effective in preventing natural disasters.

NSW premier Dominic Perrotte has backed the $1.6 billion dam wall, which he proposes to share with the federal government.

Negotiations were already under way with the previous coalition government to implement the project, which Mr. Perrotte described as “very positive”.

“Obviously the new government has just been sworn in, so they have to hand over the letter, but we will work through them because it is an important project,” Mr. Perrotte said.

“This is a complex project that has been in a too rigid basket for too long.”

Mr. Kernaghan says building the Warragamba Dam will give residents more time to evacuate in the event of some natural disasters, but will not ultimately eliminate the lingering risk.

“The Hawkesbury-Neping floodplain is fed by rain from four drainage basins, while Warragamba Dam reduces runoff from only one,” he said.

“And as soon as this additional (14 meters) capacity of the dam is reached, the water will continue to overflow into the floodplain.

Originally published as A controversial idea for thousands of flood-destroyed homes