• Tony Bosworth

Council waive fees for DAs on flood impacted properties but no compo if you can’t use local roads

Hawkesbury councillors have voted to waive Development Application fees for owners of flood damaged properties, as well as sweeping aside construction certificate fees and prioritising the applications through the Council’s planning department.

The waiver could save people who are looking to rebuild from around $300 up to several thousand dollars, depending on the cost of any rebuild.

Mayor Patrick Conolly told a full meeting of the council, “I think it’s important to waive certificate fees for all flood impacted properties.”

There are also rent abatements for Council tenants affected by the floods, and more flexible payment plans for rates and other charges.

Cllr Conolly added the moves were, “not likely to be of considerable cost to ratepayers”.

The Council do not know how many DAs will come in, with the Director of City Planning, Linda Perrine, saying they were still carrying out assessments of impacted sites but she didn’t think they [DAs] would all come in at once.

“Each case will be different,” Ms Perrine said. “We will work with each person individually.”

Greens Road, Lower Portland - no timeframe for reopening

Cllr Danielle Wheeler said she was concerned the Council could, “lag on other DAs. We need to tell other applicants that we are prioritising flood works. Their new back deck is not our current priority.”

Some 4000 properties across the Hawkesbury were impacted by the floods, but not all of them will need to be rebuilt.

Councillor Emma-Jane Garrow asked if some kind of compensation could also be offered to those who were having to use forest trails at Lower Portland due to flood-damaged Greens Road being totally impassable.

Cllr Garrow said she had received several complaints about punctured tyres because people were having to use rough unsealed routes.

“Is there any way at all that council could somehow offer some sort of relief to residents, some discount in rates or compensation?" asked Cllr Garrow.

“I’m hearing stories over and over about repetitive punctures from fire trails and the like and just wondering if there is any direction we could take in that avenue?"

But Mayor Conolly dismissed the idea, saying, “I wouldn’t support that. I couldn’t understand why we would be compensating people for their road not being available, as if it was our fault that the flood happened. Everyone is working as fast as they possibly can on all these roads and I don’t think Council wants to take legal liability for the flood, as if we caused it. It’s been not a good financial experience for Council either and we need to remember that for all our ratepayers.”

But Cllr Pete Reynolds said while he agreed with Cllr Garrow that they could be “opening a can of worms” if residents were to be compensated when they couldn’t use roads near them, he believed, “people pay rates so they can use local roads and if they can’t use local roads for whatever reason then I’m with Cllr Garrow.

“If that local road is not there for whatever reason then in any other circumstance you would be compensated. I get the other perspective and as Cllr Garrow says it may be opening a can of worms but I think it is just an observation we should consider and let people know they can apply for hardship on their rates."

One of the worst flood-affected roads in the Hawkesbury, Greens Road has

no time-frame from Council for reopening.

A geotechnical investigation began last week and will continue over the next two weeks in an effort to get a detailed survey of the site using a drone with Lidar to look at the road surface and the shape of the ground below the waterline.

Once engineers have that detail they will decide what work is needed to mend the road.

Councillors voted for the DA and other fee waivers and potential rent savings for tenants, with Cllr Paul Rasmussen saying, “this is a great initiative”.

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