The NSW government has announced its pick to lead a new body that will coordinate long-term reconstruction efforts for flood-impacted areas in the Northern Rivers.
David Witherdin, who only last month started a new job as commercial & corporate services deputy secretary for the department of regional NSW, has been named as CEO of the new government entity.
In a statement on Tuesday, NSW premier Dominic Perrotet said the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) would coordinate planning, rebuilding and construction work of essential services, infrastructure and housing across multiple government agencies.
The work of the new entity will focus on rebuilding in the flood-affected areas of Ballina, Byron Bay, Kyogle, Tweed, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley and Lismore, he added.
“The NSW government is in this for the long haul.
“We will support the people of flood-impacted communities, across the Northern Rivers, every step of the way,” Perrottet said.
With the clean-up and recovery now underway, many people affected the #NSWFloods are anxious, under stress and overwhelmed.
If you've been affected, we want you to know you can access professional support if needed.
— Dom Perrottet (@Dom_Perrottet) March 15, 2022
The remit for the NRRC will include the reconstruction of flood-hit communities beyond the immediate response and recovery phase, which is being led by Resilience NSW.
The entity will sit within the Department of Regional NSW and report to the deputy premier, and enable authorities at the state and local level to better respond to outcomes of an independent inquiry into the official emergency response to major flooding events in the northern parts of the state.
“We know the community needs certainty. We are working through recovery and we have an independent inquiry underway that will hear from all of those impacted, from experts and the scientific community,” the premier said.
“The NRRC will be able to draw on the recommendations from the inquiry and lead the long-term reconstruction work to build certainty for future generations.”
The new body will be able to compulsorily acquire or subdivide land, speed up and fast-track the building of new premises and accelerate delivery of planning proposals through the department of planning and environment.
It will be supported by an advisory board comprising local government representatives and community leaders to inform the strategic direction of the NRCC with local expertise. Close work with local councils will also be a feature of the entity’s work, with a particular focus on housing and social infrastructure projects that can rejuvenate communities in the Northern Rivers.
New CEO Witherdin, who is a civil engineer by training, has a background in local council before going on to undertake a number of operational leadership roles in the public sector.
The coordinating body will also have broad powers to consult with the community with a view to building for a future more resilient to flooding events. According to deputy premier premier Paul Toole, important contributors to this planning will be the insurance, construction and infrastructure sectors, as well as local government, businesses and residents.
“The floods have had a devastating impact and the NSW government will continue to provide assistance to enable the people of the Northern Rivers to get back on their feet,” Toole said.
“As we transition from recovery and clean-up the focus will shift to how we can make the infrastructure and homes of the region more resilient in the event of future natural disasters.”