• Tony Bosworth

Almost 2 years after $147K flood grant to Council, St Albans area residents still waiting for action

When Hawkesbury Council put up a social media post this week heralding its emergency “preparedness page” and said, “It has everything you need to know about getting you PREPARED!!!” it not surprisingly raised a few hackles down at Macdonald Valley where residents are still waiting for action on a $147,000 flood study.

Since the $147,000 state government grant was announced back in October 2019 and then handed to council, much water has flowed under the bridge, as they say, and the Macdonald Valley, with St Albans at its heart, has suffered two major flood events.

The area was particularly badly affected by the major emergency flood situation in March when it was cut off from the outside world for over three days with initially no emergency assistance. Council’s emergency dashboard didn’t even feature the area.

And now - into August - the work of consulting with residents has still not begun, almost two years after the grant was announced.

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

According to Stephen Brown, a St Albans resident and past President of the Macdonald Valley Association, that still hasn’t begun.

Back in early March, Councillor Nathan Zamprogno did make an effort to find out what was happening after Mr Brown wrote to him asking for assistance. The councillor was told engagement with residents would begin before the end of March – it hasn’t.

On Wednesday, after seeing the council social media post, Mr Brown wrote to Mayor Patrick Conolly and Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett asking for an update and for some action.

So far, the Deputy Mayor is the only one who has been back to Mr Brown and she told him there is no longer a Floodplain Management Advisory Committee – that bit the dust when Liberal and Labor councillors voted for a new councillor-only committee structure earlier this year.

That committee, says the Deputy Mayor had, “met regularly and monitored the progress of such grant funded studies”.

She added that the new committee covering disaster and emergency management had only met once in eight months, “which is unfortunate because, as you rightly point out we need to be prepared for emergency situations. We have an enormous amount of work to do in that regard,” she said.

Mr Brown says, "we haven't heard anything as a community and it seems to be an example of failure of the new committees. They [council] flick an email from a couple of months ago every time we ask about progress. It’s not acceptable.

“It's almost two years ago now since the grant was awarded, to have two floods since then and all the issues, and still council haven't engaged with the community, with no follow-up. It’s just not good enough.

“I’d also say, surely Robyn Preston [Hawkesbury state MP] should have sight of the ongoing lack of accounting for progress on a State Government grant.”

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