• Tony Bosworth

$147,000 handed-over 14 months ago, yet Council flood study of Macdonald Valley still not started

Back in October 2019, Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston announced a $147,000 grant had been awarded to Hawkesbury City Council specifically to study and plan for floods in the flood-prone Macdonald Valley.

Fourteen months later work has not begun on the study – the past 14 months have simply seen consultation with other government bodies to avoid study duplication.

In the past few weeks social media pages have literally been flooded with information from government and the SES about flood risks, and what to do, across the Hawkesbury – but Macdonald Valley – often called The Forgotten Valley – is barely mentioned.

Since Ms Preston announced the $147,000 grant, the Macdonald Valley area has suffered multiple floods, including a particularly damaging one this February.

“Present emergency flood planning and NSW promoted information websites overlook many parts of our valley region. It’s a reminder to us of our alternate place name - the Forgotten Valley,” says St Albans resident and recent past President of the Macdonald Valley Association, Stephen Brown.

“It is over 12 months since Robyn Preston MP announced a NSW Government grant of $147,000 to Hawkesbury City Council for floodplain management and emergency planning for the combined Macdonald River, Colo River, Webbs Creek and Greens Creek,” Mr Brown told the Post. “It’s right that our community should be disappointed in Council’s lack of progress.”

Hawkesbury Council’s Manager Strategic Planning, Andrew Kearns, said in a statement: “appointment of consultants to these projects is expected to occur shortly, and in addition to a range of technical related studies will include engagement with a range of stakeholders including the community in order to ensure that the Final Study and Plan fully articulates the flood risk and proposed measures to manage that defined risk.”

Mr Brown says that’s just not good enough.

“Since the funding and grant we’ve had multiple flood events, mostly minor, but in February we and other areas of Hawkesbury were impacted, areas that would have been addressed under this study.

“Earlier this year Council sought community responses on their updated Floods Policy. It was pretty poor that our community really could not participate and engage in the formation of the new policy, as this $147,000 study funded by Government had not been completed and integrated into the draft policy.”

Council’s Mr Kearns outlined the objectives of the still-to-be-started Flood Study and Flood Risk Management Study and Plan for the Macdonald River, Colo River, Webbs Creek and Greens Creek as:

  • provide a better understanding of the:

  • variation in flood behaviour, flood function, flood hazard and flood risk in the Study Areas

  • impacts and costs for a range of flood events or risks on the existing and future community

  • impacts of changes in development and climate on flood risk

  • emergency response situation and limitations

  • effectiveness of current management measures; and

  • facilitate information sharing on flood risk across government and with the community.

Mr Kearns said preparation of the consultants’ brief had required extensive consultation and input from NSW State Government Agencies including Infrastructure NSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment “who are currently undertaking various studies and other work as part of implementation of the NSW State Government’s Hawkesbury Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy (Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities).

"Whilst this has added to the complexity and timeframes associated with the project, it has been essential in order to avoid duplication of work between Council and the NSW State Government," Mr Kearns said.

“Our valley, of Macdonald River, is a flood risk valley with its own particular flood behaviours and multiple other headwaters, and we are also impacted by the behaviour of the Hawkesbury [River],” Mr Brown said.

“In October 2019 and again in September 2020 we received NSW Government’s promotion material encouraging communities to know their flood risk. It is hard to imagine that Government would see value for money in their campaign, when much of our area is not included.

“In flood our options are limited, as ferries can be out of service and other road routes cut in multiple locations. For many it is a situation of stay in place, look after yourself, coordinate locally for assistance and reach out for emergency support as required, and all that relies on phone and power being available too,” said Mr Brown.

Mr Kearns said consultation and engagement with the community would be “occurring at varying stages of the project, with outcomes of those various stage expected to be available from mid-2021, and the final Flood Risk Management Study and Plan available in the third quarter of 2021”.

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