• Tony Bosworth

$147K and 3 major floods later, still no Flood Risk Management Study from Hawkesbury Council

It’s been almost three years since Hawkesbury Council was handed $147,000 to carry out a Flood Risk Management Study for the flood-prone Macdonald Valley, Colo, and Webbs and Greens Creek, and yet residents have not even been asked yet for their feedback on historical and recent flooding.

Resident consultation was supposed to begin in March last year.

The $147,000 of state government funding was handed to Hawkesbury Council back in October 2019.

Last year as floods swept through the Macdonald Valley – often referred to scathingly by its residents as Forgotten Valley – the communities of St Albans and surrounds were completely isolated and didn’t have anyone to help them for 4 straight days, aside from one locally based police officer.

This year, with even worse flooding in the Forgotten Valley and Colo region, the SES were out early and in force, so lessons have been learnt there.

There seems to be a lack of urgency of urgency from Hawkesbury Council on the State-government funded flood study for the area, which is costing the not insubstantial sum of $147,000, and was announced back in 2019, to much fanfare from Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston.

In March 2021 – so a year ago – the Council told the Post, “the project is scheduled to commence with a community engagement program prior to the end of March 2021.”

The $147,000 is being paid to consultants overseen by the Council, but almost 3 years later they have still to even prepare “consultation material for residents” within each catchment area, which includes Macdonald Valley, Colo, Webbs Creek, and Greens Creek.

The hefty grant was part of the NSW government’s State Floodplain Management Program, and was specifically to “undertake a flood study and flood risk management study and plan investigation of the Macdonald River, the Colo River, Webbs Creek and Greens Creek”.

In March 2021 – so a year ago – the Council told the Post, “the project is scheduled to commence with a community engagement program prior to the end of March 2021.”

That community consultation has not yet begun, almost three years after the grant was awarded.

Council says the consultants have achieved some milestones, including gathering and reviewing previous flood studies, and they’ve made site visits, as well as building a “digital model of the catchment”.

Such has been the delay in asking residents about the flood situation that Council told the Post this latest flood we’ve just experienced will be added into the “consultation material”.

Hawkesbury Council’s latest dateline for delivery of the finished project is now expected to be “in late 2022”, says Council.

When and if a final report is released it will be interesting to see where it goes.

The likely reviewing body would have been Council’s Floodplain Management Committee, but that was dissolved after Liberal and Labor councillors voted last year for a new committee structure that spelt the end for the Floodplain Committee, among others, and it’s not been replaced with another committee, beside the Disaster Management Committee, which is a much broader committee and rarely meets.

Here’s the full statement given to the Post by Hawkesbury Council’s Director of City Planning, Linda Perrine.

“Council’s consultants have progressed with data collection and preparation of the flood study associated with this Flood Study and Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan, including the following specific elements:

• Collation and review of previous flood studies within the catchments and surrounds

• Site visits across the catchments of each river/creek

• Survey control for measuring information related to flood events

• Building a digital model of the catchment, including the most up to date data from the NSW Government’s flood studies within the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley

• Collection and analysis of GIS data within each catchment

• Preparation of consultation material for residents within each catchment calling for information about recent or historical floods, and seeking suggestions related to flooding in the Macdonald, Colo, Webbs and Greens Creek catchments (note: consultation material being amended to include reference to March 2022 flood event as well). When released, residents are encouraged to complete the survey and provide valuable information and insight into flooding within each of these catchments – stay tuned for further details to be released shortly.

• Establishment of a Technical Working Group comprised of relevant state agencies to inform the ongoing progress of the project.

Completion of the Flood Study and Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan is still expected to be finalised in late 2022.”

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