After the floods: What have we learned and what is needed to protect residents from further flooding disasters


By Eloise Parrab, Land Lease Communities Officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSWEloise

Many residential land lease communities are located close to rivers and coastal areas of NSW and have been severely impacted by the major flooding events we have seen in NSW over the past couple of years. In Outasite magazine 8 we wrote an article about the impact of the late February and early March 2022 floods on the residents in residential land lease communities in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. A lot of these communities and residents are still continuing to recover from the devastation that was caused. The frequency and severity of disasters is increasing and the trend is expected to increase dramatically over the next couple of decades. These disasters affect every part of people’s lives and take years to rebuild and recover.

The NSW Government established a Flood Inquiry in early 2022 to look at preparation for, causes of, response to and recovery from the 2022 catastrophic flood event across NSW.

The report from the Flood inquiry included a page on the flood risk to caravan parks and manufactured home estates. The inquiry found: “Caravan parks and manufactured home estates have been developed in places that are appropriate for tourist purposes but are not always ideal locations for permanent residents. Under the current planning system, there are significant legacy risks which mean that many permanent residents, who are generally older and often infirm, are living at significant flood risk.”

The recommendation from the report was: “That, to ensure that permanent residents of caravan parks and mobile housing estates are protected from flood, Government should:

  • prohibit permanent residency in caravan parks and mobile housing estates situated below the risk-based flood planning level. Caravan parks for holiday makers could still be on the floodplain with the provision that, if a flood is imminent, they need to be evacuated
  • address the issues raised in the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Discussion Paper on Improving the Regulation of Manufactured Homes, Caravans Parks, Manufactured Homes Estates and Camping Grounds (Discussion Paper 2015).”

The NSW Government response to the recommendation is: “The NSW Government is committed to better protecting permanent residents of caravan parks and mobile housing estates from floods. Further consideration needs to be given to the impacts of this recommendation on current residents and vulnerable people, and how Government could best support them with alternative accommodation options if permanent residency in caravan parks and mobile housing estates is no longer an option.”

The State government produced a discussion paper in November 2015 which outlined issues and possible solutions to improve the regulation of manufactured homes and caravan parks. The Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2021 (LG Regulation) details the provisions for the approval, design, operation and construction of manufactured home estates, camping grounds, caravan parks and moveable dwellings (including manufactured homes). A review into this regulation was welcomed as it was not keeping up with changes in the industry, since it was developed 20 years ago. The review included looking at what controls were needed for residential parks located on flood prone land as over time homes in communities had moved away from being temporary and relocatable. There have been no further papers or reports from the NSW Government on this review. There were some minor amendments to the LG Regulation when it commenced in September 2021 but the issues outlined in the discussion paper in November 2015 still exist. The Tenants’ Union is hopeful that once the statutory review of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 is finalised and we see the recommendations introduced into legislation that the NSW Government can focus attention on the regulation of manufactured home estates and caravan parks for a long overdue overhaul.

Since the recent floods, the Tenants’ Union has seen examples of operators failing to consider the implications of placing manufactured homes on flood liable land. This appears to be putting profits above people’s safety and wellbeing. At Woronora Village Tourist Park the operator has a development application before the local Sutherland Shire Council seeking consent to install two storey manufactured homes in the community. Many of these new homes are proposed to be placed in the part of the caravan park closest to the river and the area which in previous floods was the most impacted. This land is flood prone and therefore has only been designated for short term stays and camping only. This development application is currently going through the application process and residents of this community and the Tenants’ Union are hopeful that it will be rejected or recommended for refusal.

This year in the Tweed Chinderah area some operators have been bringing new homes into their residential land lease communities. Many of these communities experienced severe flooding in March 2022 and many homes were severely damaged. Some of these communities are on flood liable land and this has implications for what structures can be installed and what permission must be sought from the local Council. The installation of new homes on flood liable land seems to be in direct contradiction to the recommendations from the NSW Government flood inquiry.

The Tweed Council has recently announced they are working on a planning proposal to prohibit caravan parks on
 and zoned as RU2 rural landscape. This zone is for agriculture land and other supporting uses. The Mayor of the Tweed Council Chris Cherry was recently quoted in an article in the Echo as saying: “There is a loophole in law that allows caravan parks to have moveable dwellings, that includes manufactured homes. Caravan parks are often built in floodplains, as you assume residents won’t be there [when it floods] because they would have moved. We are very conscious that the legislation, as it stands, is allowing manufactured home estates to be built in rural locations. And at this point we’ve got no control over that.”

A recent Tweed Council Planning and Urban Design report said in reference to the existing caravan parks in the area: “Many are legacy developments that sit within the floodplain and the most affected and displaced persons from the 2022 floods were from these sites, and there is no evidence of any new or converted caravan park that could affordably accommodate a transitioning flood affected person”. It’s good to see Tweed Council taking a proactive approach and not waiting for the NSW Government to bring about much needed amendments to the Local Government Regulations. What is also needed from the local Council is more pro-active compliance inspections of land lease communities where operators are flagrantly disregarding the current regulations and then taking action where they find operators are in breach.

With the research suggesting we will have more major flooding events we need to urgently see thoughtful and well considered policy solutions for residents who are currently residing in homes which are at risk of flooding. We look forward to the opportunity to contribute to these discussions.

Find the flood inquiry report here


Flood House

‘Flood house’ from the 2022 series ‘Rise’ by Chas Glover

Artist statement: By wintertime I was living in a house emptied of most of its contents. The streets were now quiet, unpopulated. The surrounding houses were broken, dark and lifeless. The stripped loungeroom became a studio. I lived alone and began to paint. Pure colour was an escape from lands stained sepia into a world more connected with ideas and dreams. The paintings were taking me somewhere, and I followed where they wanted to go. The process became intuitive. I disappeared into the work. The work represented many ideas, not just the flood. Motifs appeared and repeated. The paintings transmuted a strangeness that comes from inhabiting a haunted landscape. They were born of mud and blossomed into space...

Chas Glover is a painter and musician who lives in Lismore.


This article was published in Outasite magazine issue 10. Outasite is published once or twice annually. Outasite Lite email newsletter is sent several times a year – subscribe here. All past issues are available in the archive.