Ballina Shire Council has voted to consider easing flood mitigation rules for rural homes.
Ballina Shire Council has voted to consider easing flood mitigation rules for rural homes. Claudia Jambor

Flood risk review could cost council $200,000

BALLINA Shire Council could spend $200,000 on looking into changes to rural flood mitigation rules, against their consultant's recommendations.

Councillors considered the option of looking at alternative flood mitigation options for isolated dwellings in rural areas at Thursday's general meeting.

Of two key options, a report to councillors recommended taking no action at this point in time.

But in heated 7-3 vote, they opted to launch a review into the 2012 Ballina Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan and Development Control Plan.

This could see flood mitigation ruled eased to allow the construction on Queenslander-style pole homes on isolated, flood-prone rural lots.

Deputy mayor Keith Williams moved an amendment for the council to reconsider the matter after the review of Ballina's flood mitigation conditions.

This was voted down, along with the original motion, which sought to keep the status quo.

Cr Phillip Meehan - who supported the existing rules - said the State Emergency Service had warned against softening their flood strategy.

"(The SES) believe pads provide a greater shelter area for people and for animals,” Cr Meehan said.

"We are not the people who are putting our lives at risk if it's necessary to rescue somebody, it's the SES.

"We have people's lives at hand here, in the decisions we make.

"Let's heed their advice.”

Nicole Hogan from the NSW SES wrote to the council's consultant, saying while fill pads were "not ideal” they offered a "better environment for rescue” than a Queenslander-style home.

"The relaxation of the fill pad policy may compromise the ability for rescuers to ensure the safety of occupants if they require rescue from their rural isolated dwelling,” Ms Hogan wrote.

Cr Jeff Johnson said while he was in favour of pole homes in urban areas, he backed the SES warning.

"I'm not going to be supporting a policy that increases risk,” he said.

"Storms and rain events have been getting more intense.

"Why would we put more people at risk?”

Cr Ben Smith argued there was nothing preventing the council from going ahead with a review of the current rules.

"The reality is there are other opinions,” Cr Smith said.

"These type of developments are allowed in other areas of similar locality like the Tweed or Richmond.”

The council's general manager Paul Hickey said a review would only be possible at the cost of something else in the budget.

"You'll have to take money away from another project,” he said said.

Manager for Civil Services John Truman said the cost of such a review would likely be "around the $200,000 mark”.

Cr Smith said this would not be earmarked for the next financial year.

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