• Tony Bosworth

Residents with riverbank properties have suffered enough says Mayor - asks State to get a move on

Hawkesbury Council is claiming delays in State government assistance to set-up a streamlined approval process to repair riverbanks damaged by the March floods is leading to hardship among affected residents and unauthorised works being carried out to properties and the river.

Hawkesbury Mayor Patrick Conolly

Mayor Patrick Conolly has written to Deputy Premier John Barilaro asking for a meeting but the Post understands that is unlikely to happen.

The March floods caused a large amount of damage to riverbanks across the Hawkesbury, affecting hundreds of properties along the Hawkesbury River.

The damage has led to unstable riverbanks close to homes and rural buildings, putting them at risk of further damage, and making them vulnerable to future flood events, says a media release from Hawkesbury Council.

Alongside Resilience NSW, the State Government has carried out major studies of the damage to the riverbanks to work towards setting-up a streamlined design and approval process for landowners so they can take necessary repairs on their properties.

But almost six months since the floods, the system still hasn’t been put in place.

The existing process could see landowners tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket to obtain the necessary approvals, says Hawkesbury Council.

The State Government has also budgeted $18 million to employ case managers across affected NSW LGAs to help speed up the application process and assist in the recovery and restoration, but this has also not taken place yet.

Mayor Conolly said the delays were unfair on residents and putting properties, livelihoods and lives at risk.

“A lot of promises were made by state authorities during and immediately after the March 2021 floods, but five months on and it seems like we are no longer a high priority,”

“Until this streamlined approval process is put in place, all of the normal requirements for the application and assessment of development applications for riverbank repairs still apply, and in some cases this will require land owners spending tens of thousands of dollars on reports, and waiting for a full assessment by councils," said Mayor Conolly.

“Council feels this is fundamentally unfair and not what we were led to believe would eventuate. Residents along the river have already suffered enough and shouldn’t be left in limbo facing further financial hardship while the state government dithers.

“Delays and the associated costs have resulted in unapproved works being carried out by landowners at various locations, putting the health of the river at risk. There are also concerns that the works are not being carried out according to best-practice design principles and may be at risk from failure – occasioning further property damage.

“Council is calling on the State Government to hurry up and deliver what has been promised to these long-suffering residents, and I will be seeking a meeting with the Deputy Premier to draw attention to the matter.”

We asked Deputy Premier John Barilaro for his comments on the situation and whether a meeting with the Mayor was likely. He said the State government was finalising the program guidelines.

“The NSW Government remains committed to providing long-term support for communities impacted by the February and March 2021 storms and floods,” said a spokesperson for the Deputy Premier

“Some $790 million in total has now been committed to the flood recovery program and the Infrastructure Betterment Fund, which are cost-shared by the NSW and Australian Governments.

“In July 2021, the NSW and Australian Governments announced $200 million for the Flood Phase 3 Recovery Package to fund eight targeted programs designed to provide medium to long term recovery support for highly impacted industries and communities.

“A ninth program, the Infrastructure Betterment Fund for NSW, will provide a further $200 million to support the reconstruction of public assets damaged during the 19-20 bushfires and the recent storms and floods to a more resilient standard.

“The Phase 3 package includes funding for the Riverbank Remediation program, which will undertake targeted rehabilitation works and facilitate a streamlined waterway approval process that ensures post-flood remediation works are appropriate, consistent with government regulations, support long-term river health and protect assets and businesses.

“The NSW Government is currently finalising the program guidelines,” said the spokesperson.

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