Co-operative and Mutual Sector says NSW flood inquiry recommendations a step in the right direction

17 August 2022

  • Call for NSW flood recovery housing to be 5% co-operative ownership
  • BCCM urges greater clarity on roles for business co-operatives in disaster planning

The Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals today said the independent 2022 Flood Inquiry has laid a solid foundation for the restructuring of disaster planning in New South Wales.

The BCCM contributed one of the 1,498 written submissions that helped underpin the Inquiry’s 28 recommendations for change.

CEO Melina Morrison said the BCCM agrees with the focus by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on local and regional solutions: “However, we do want to see clarity on engagement with local co-ops and mutuals in realising this objective, given they are on the ground and contribute to response and recovery from day one.”

The BCCM noted the report’s conclusion that Government needs to harness, celebrate and empower safe and coordinated community-led initiatives, not only for rescues but also for evacuation support and the provision of services.

“We support the recommendation for the creation of a ‘Community First Responders Program’, funding appropriate community equipment and training, particularly in high-risk catchments along the east coast,” said Ms Morrison. “The BCCM has long argued that local response plans cannot be effectively formulated bureaucratically and remotely from the disaster epicentres.”

“It is the local communities themselves – having lived through the natural disasters and their aftermath – that have the critical knowledge that should inform every part of building resilience and recovery strategies,” she added.

The BCCM also highlighted the finding that Government must promote personal agency and capacity through consistent communications and education to create more resilient communities.

“However, to combat the challenge of ‘disaster amnesia’ identified in the report more is required than community education,” said Ms Morrison. “A National Co-operative Disaster Recovery Centre of Excellence is needed to deliver longitudinal research and knowledge sharing, building on and strengthening local, trusted business and community networks.”

Ms Morrison said she was pleased to see a range of recommendations on a housing response, including accelerating investment by the community housing and private sectors in new social and affordable housing projects.

“And we believe Government should partner with the co-operative and mutual sector to deliver on the recommendation for more resilient, diverse and community-centred housing,” she said.

The BCCM is calling for a minimum of 5% of new affordable and community housing stock to be co-operative.

“Housing co-operatives have the benefits of long-term tenancies and democratic member control which builds a sense of place and commitment,” said Ms Morrison. “Housing co-operatives improve home affordability and offer control of the living environment to their members.”

Research has found that housing co-operatives can deliver benefits to members and the wider community through increased social capital, housing quality and stability, health and well-being. They also promote skills acquisition, as well as having lower operating costs and broader economic or development outcomes.

“We need a diversification of housing models to meet the full range of housing needs and aspirations in the community,” said Ms Morrison. “Housing solutions must cater for key workers, young people, older Australians, as well as people with a disability and First Nations people.”

Ms Morrison said the over-reliance on the two housing models – of private ownership and private rental accommodation – places more people at risk of homelessness.

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