Building back Northern Rivers: a guideline to understand development approvals and support flood recovery

NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Build Back Guidance for Northern Rivers, NSW

Between late February and early April 2022, the Northern Rivers region in NSW encountered some of the worst flooding it has ever seen. The unprecedented scale and severity of the floods damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings and significantly impacted local infrastructure. It will take the Northern Rivers community some time to recover, and everyone has been affected differently. Some have lost entire homes or businesses and are faced with some big decisions around rebuilding, while others have had minor damages which need repair.

It can be difficult to navigate planning and development approval processes at the best of times. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment appointed Cred Consulting to work with the seven Councils of the Northern Rivers region to develop a guideline explaining different types of planning and development approvals and to direct the community to the advice and expertise they may need to make informed decisions about their property and flood recovery.


How we did it

The Cred Consulting team co-designed the guideline with the Department and representatives from Ballina Shire Council, Byron Shire Council, Clarence Valley Council, Kyogle Council, Lismore City Council, Richmond Valley Council and Tweed Shire Council. We undertook a series of in-person and online workshops to help understand:

  • key and recurrent issues and enquiries the Councils are receiving
  • types of approvals and topics the community needs information about
  • how to navigate the process – who to speak to, where to find information, existing resources etc
  • tone, look and feel of the document.


A clear and consistent message we received is that the guideline should be empathetic, action-oriented and informative.  Our team sought to reflect this in the ‘voice’ of the document, as well as the graphics used throughout.


The Building Back Northern Rivers Guideline provides a practical resource to help navigate the planning and approval process. Written in plain English, with graphics which reflect the unique character of the Northern Rivers region and community, it seeks to provide useful information to support local recovery.

You can download a copy of the Building Back Northern Rivers Guideline here.

Cred Consulting Graphic Designer, Lucy Ward, captured the subtropical lifestyle of NSW’s Northern Rivers in her designs for the easy-to-read Guideline and used action-oriented imagery to show region recovery.