Council must provide adequate flood protection for North Wagga to avoid further trauma.
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If this problem is not resolved urgently, Residents will be financially and emotionally traumatised and ratepayers could potentially be exposed to serious litigation costs and compensation payouts if Council is found to be behaving illegally.
Residents desperately need assistance, and to get help from the community by way of a petition will be very important to put the necessary pressure on Council to do the right thing.
The following is the Executive Summary in a Report, sent to the Minister and to the NSW Ombudsman, seeking intervention.
Since the operation of the 2005 State Policy fourteen years ago, no flood risk mitigation solutions have been implemented for North Wagga Wagga. This is despite the fact that the North Wagga Wagga floodplain is consistently categorised in the flood reports as a major flood risk; has been inundated with catastrophic flood waters diverted by the Main City Levee on two occasions in the last forty-five years; and is home to approximately 1,952 Residents who are suffering unsustainable financial and emotional trauma as a direct result of inadequate flood protection.
Residents believe there are three major issues at hand, for which intervention is required – (1) Council does not wish to spend any money on flood protection for North Wagga Wagga, which they have expressed publically on numerous occasions, and subsequently Council has not provided strong and effective representation, leadership, planning and decision-making around flood risk management for North Wagga which is thwarting the flood risk management process to the detriment of Residents; (2) The current 2018 Floodplain Risk Management Plan (FRMP) does not represent the social, economic or cultural needs of the Residents because Council ignored a 2015 Report it commissioned which, following extensive investigation and engagement with the Community, recommended a 1% AEP levee upgrade describing it as “the most economically and socially favourable” and “morally just” solution for North Wagga Wagga; (3) The flawed 2018 FRMP will be presented shortly to the Floodplain Risk Management Advisory Committee (FRMAC) which no longer comprises a voting member from North Wagga Wagga.
Until the Main City Levee was constructed in the 1960’s, Residents in North Wagga Wagga had not experienced major flooding, only minor flooding, described by local Residents as “bearable and very manageable”. Following completion of the Main City Levee in the late 1960’s, North Wagga Wagga was subjected to catastrophic flooding from flood waters that were diverted by the Main City Levee back across the North Wagga Wagga Floodplain. This catastrophic flooding occurred in 1974 & 2012. Residents were also evacuated due to the threat of flooding in 1991 and 2010 and were placed on high alert in 2016 with no evacuation required. The majority of the community are unaware that the Main City Levee is the cause of serious flooding in North Wagga Wagga.
Following the catastrophic flood event of 1974, Residents pleaded with Council to implement adequate flood protection in North Wagga Wagga. Sixteen years later Council conceded and built a levee. When it was originally constructed, the levee was categorised as a 5% AEP levee (1 in 20-year levee) but has since been downgraded due to changes in modelling and freeboard height requirements. It currently commences to overtop at the 8 year ARI flood level (12% AEP) and Residents can therefore expect to be flooded every 8 years or so. Residents have always considered the levee a token gesture by Council that is seriously inadequate.
If another flood strikes before adequate protection is implemented, many Residents will be forced into bankruptcy. With regard to a possible levee upgrade, Council’s current position is that a 5% AEP levee might be investigated. This solution has been categorically opposed by Residents, because it is not high enough and the frequency of flooding will still be such that the financial and emotional trauma will not be relieved.
The Residents are seeking a 1% AEP levee, which will provide the necessary relief and has been deemed by experts to be the most comprehensively favourable choice. In addition to this, an adequate levee will protect North Wagga Wagga’s cultural significance - it is the original settlement site; is located on prime land offering a very unique lifestyle afforded by its location in close proximity to the CBD, adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River; is home to many families with a long history in the area, of which attachment to the land is a vital part; and has potential to be an important educational hub because it is also located close to Charles Sturt University and TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre.
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