April 3, 2022

The housing crisis & flood resilient rebuild crisis are interconnected

By Sasha Mainsbridge, Founder & Projects Manager at Mullum Cares
If you’re following the Northern Rivers flooding disasters you will be reading about the housing crisis catastrophe that is multiplying the trauma beyond anything most can imagine.

My friend, Dione Payne – author of Ethical Property Investment – yesterday helped me join the dots to the interconnectedness of this crisis to our ability as a region to rebuild our homes and businesses to be flood resilient for the future.

Without urgent action our community is destined to go through all of this again –  because this is predictable it is avoidable.

Our local architects, builders and trades were beyond capacity prior to the floods doing renovations and redesigns for the thousands of people who have migrated to our region either permanently due to Covid or part time, taking rental houses off the market to Airbnb.  We must inspire them to prioritise helping locals to fix their homes but first we must fast track their knowledge on how to do so with future flooding in mind.

Local Building Industry members are joining us daily.

As my home is badly damaged I am working through the process to get flood resilient retrofitting plans and quotes done at my own expense to avoid any conflict of interest with the project funds.  I’m in the middle of doing the research but at this point it appears the only other people getting assistance with this problem are lucky Suncorp building policy holders who have the Australia wide, Industry First “Build it Back BetterTM” feature in their policy that offers additional funds to replace non flood resilient materials with flood resilient alternatives and raise external services like hot water systems, air conditioning units and pool pumps.

Mullum Cares has written to Suncorp’s CEO, Steve Johnston, asking for Suncorp’s help to upskill our local building industry so they can provide guidance to Northern Rivers residents on Building Back Better.

A forum where Qld experts can relay their years of experience adapting homes and businesses to be more flood resilient will be invaluable to our local building industry.  The request to Suncorp also includes training for Mullum Cares Case Managers to assist property owners through the process from making homes safe to the end where flood resilient measures have been implemented so the property can be lived in or rented with confidence that everything that could be done to reduce future trauma and loss has been done.

Mullum Cares project to provide Residential Flood Adaptation Assistance includes three core elements:

  1.  Collate and make available the best practice flood resilient retrofit and rebuild information and make it easily accessible to the local building industry and property owners;
  2.  Offer a Case Manager lead service to work with property owners through the process from Making their Homes Safe to live in until the last step when their home has been adapted for flood resilience and:
  3.  Supporting Shedding Community Workshop to design & deliver face to face and online education for people keen to DIY flood adaptation works.
Why is Mullum Cares so passionate about Flood Resilience?

Mullum Cares purpose is to change consumer behaviour to reduce emissions by inspiring and enabling our community to change our consumption behaviour.  If we chose like-for-like materials and furniture as replacements to those thrown out due to flood damage the waste, trauma and emissions spike will all be repeated after another flood like this one in the future.

Mullum Cares has dedicated funds to begin the Byron Shire Residential Flood Adaptation project and is applying for further funding to progress the project.  Close relationships with organisations like Zero Emissions Byron and Shedding Community Workshop mean elements of the project scope may be delivered in collaboration with organisations like these.  The first step for flood inundated properties is to ensure they are safe to use if they must be in the interim before they are fixed.  To support this imperative Mullum Cares has applied for funding to organise electrical safety inspections for people who want to live in their flood damaged homes until flood resilient measures can be implemented.

What we know from previous efforts by governments to offer financial assistance to home owners to improve their flood resilience (see this article) is that a bucket of money alone does not help most people.  Mullum Cares believe successful mass adaptation requires the skills of caring and knowledgable Case Managers to guide property owners through the process from start to finish.

Why is Sasha Mainsbridge ideal to Lead this Project?
If you google Sasha you will read about her work since she moved to Mullumbimby in late 2014.  Sasha founded Mullum Cares and has been a constant voice encouraging conservation of resources from avoiding single use plastics to sharing by joining Mullum Cares Library of Stuff.

What isn’t well known is that prior to retraining in Conservation & Land Management in 2013-14 Sasha worked for AAMI from 1999 until 2012.  Sasha began on the front line in uniform at Melbourne’s Preston branch and worked in customer facing roles covering policy and claims until moving into the Business Systems Department that bridged the companies operations with its IT department and worked to design, test and implement system improvements.  AAMI was purchased by Suncorp Group in 2007.  Sasha’s last role with the company was as a Suncorp Leadership Coach in 2011/12.  As a Lead Coach, Sasha was involved in the delivery of a program titled Removing the Blockages that was designed by the authors of – and principally based on the ethos of – Blue Ocean Strategy.   It started at the top and systematically invited every team to identify barriers to performance and leaders were coached to work through the blockages to remove them.  The relevance of this project is simply that it accelerated Sasha’s previous knowledge as a Behavioural Scientist to be able to identify barriers and remove them.  This was generally an easy process as the staff at all levels were expected to support the program.  The result was a measured improvement in both employee engagement and enablement as they felt heard and the grievances that were blocking performance removed.

Sasha knows insurance.  Sasha understands the limitations faced by insurers and the challenges the insurance industry faces with increasingly frequent and damaging weather events.  It’s in insurers and property owners best interests to adapt buildings to be more flood resilient.


Step 1 – Make Sure Your Property is Safe

Electrical Safety
You must have a qualified electrician assess your property for electrical safety.

If you were insured your Insurer should have sent an electrician already to do this.  If they haven’t, follow them up immediately.

Mullum Cares has applied for funding to provide electrical safety assessments for homes that are desperately needed for people to live in before flood resilient measures can be organised.  If you want information about flood resilient materials or strategies or just to hear the result of our electrical safety funding application please follow the registration link below.

Cleaning up so your home is safe

Click through to the NSW Department of Health’s website that has comprehensive information on cleaning including how to treat mould.