NSW Reconstruction Authority: That, to provide rapid and effective recovery from floods (and other disasters) and to provide maximum mitigation of the impacts of future floods (and other disasters), Government establish a permanent state-wide agency, the NSW Reconstruction Authority (NSWRA) dedicated to disaster recovery, reconstruction and preparedness. The NSWRA should:
• source and acquit reconstruction funding from state, Australian Government and philanthropic sources and ensure it is distributed and spent efficiently, effectively, and equitably to get the affected communities functioning again successfully in minimum time. A disaster-preparedness funding envelope should be a permanent feature of the state’s budget (NSW Adaptation Fund) with specific drawdown arrangements negotiated as soon as a disaster occurs
• work with appropriate agencies to ensure disaster relief grants schemes are put into place quickly and ensure rapid and effective distribution of disaster relief grants
• be the clear lead agency responsible for managing and coordinating Government’s program of housing and infrastructure renewal and recovery within disaster‐affected communities, with a focus on working with community, business, state and local government partners (particularly planning, infrastructure, water and roads agencies and utilities) to deliver best practice and rapid effective expenditure of public reconstruction funds. For this it should be given appropriate authority to accelerate or override planning arrangements (in particular, local government planning, environmental and land management controls, provisions and regulations) in affected and high-risk areas and, as necessary, compulsorily acquire or subdivide land
• ensure there is appropriate project management, monitoring, evaluation and reporting of recovery implementation and associated civil engineering and public works at both a state and local level
• develop effective information flow and consultation mechanisms which ensure a clear voice in crisis but also a broader engagement process during the rebuilding phase, so all those affected in a disaster are supported, consulted and informed throughout the recovery and reconstruction process
• in line with the Government’s vision to build a more disaster-robust state, be the state’s lead agency responsible for disaster prevention. In this role, NSWRA would work collaboratively with key stakeholders (at risk communities, local government and the private, research and philanthropic sectors) to improve risk reduction and disaster adaptation particularly in high-risk areas. In particular, it should work with disaster prone communities, local government and agencies across state government to develop a State Disaster Mitigation Plan and scope, source funding for and lead special disaster-prevention and mitigation projects identified in that Plan
• contribute to Government’s objectives for the community – creating jobs, homes and a strong economy, especially in the regions, protecting the environment and building safe, caring and connected communities by:
— administering funding under disaster recovery funding arrangements and assisting local governments to achieve value for money outcomes in their reconstruction programs
— providing advice and support to local governments to maximise the effectiveness of their disaster preparedness and reconstruction programs
— coordinating disaster recovery activities that help communities recover from disasters and build their preparedness for future events.
Further, it is recommended that the NSW Reconstruction Authority be established and function under dedicated legislation [the NSW Disaster Reconstruction Act] that is modelled on the Queensland Reconstruction Authority Act. This legislation should include that:
• the Authority be allocated to a senior portfolio to maximise its convening power and its ability to respond rapidly when disaster strikes
• its CEO be a statutory appointment and be supported by an Advisory Board (maximum 7 members) comprising community, government and industry leaders with appropriate expertise and experience related to disaster response
• Special Projects be formal constructs with appropriate links to all other relevant agencies
• transition provisions transfer the activities and assets of the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation with immediate effect.

Recommendation 15