Monday, 19 April 2021 15:31

Western Sydney floods: natural disaster or poor planning?

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Media Release, 1 April 2021, People living in flood prone areas in Western Sydney are calling for the state government to urgently review the impact of urban development on natural watercourses, reporting changed water volume and movement in the region during recent flood events.

The Hawkesbury-Nepean river region is identified as having the highest flood exposure in the state[1] and was one of the worst impacted by the recent flood event, which affected communities throughout NSW. Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) President Barry Calvert says the event prompts urgent questions to be addressed, including state government support for evacuation planning, and local community concerns that the emergency was exacerbated by impact from increasing urban development.

Clr Calvert said, “We urgently need to resolve the current, fragmented approach to flood management. WSROC is concerned that local communities are not being heard or consulted, in the wake of this event. Input from local communities must inform planning so that emergency strategies and responses to future events effectively incorporate local knowledge and experience.

“Flood planning and mitigation in the Hawkesbury Nepean floodplain is a complex area; however, what is emerging in the aftermath is the need for better emergency planning and communication with residents who may need to be evacuated. As well as this, the degree to which urban development is potentially affecting the watercourses must be investigated.

“These factors are all raised in NSW Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment proposed flood resilience frameworks[2]- they are not new ideas. Last week’s disaster gives us a crucial opportunity to hone our approach and build community resilience, ahead of to future events.

“There is some concern that natural water courses in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region are being impacted by urban development, which, in extreme weather such as last week’s downpour, is potentially exacerbating disaster. Urban development in flood-prone areas means more hard surfaces that don’t allow water to be absorbed and roofs that guide water into man-made run-off areas that force the flow in new directions” said Clr Calvert.

“Local residents north of Richmond report that water behaviour during flood events has noticeably changed in recent years and that water volume has increased. We are hearing that water has been coming from, broadly, Chain of Ponds area, which previously operated as a retention point in heavy rains, staving off high volume overflow. Also, at South Creek and surrounds, creeks bank up during floods and water actually runs backward up the creek, and nearby areas such as Marsden Park then have nowhere to drain to. Taken in context with the ‘bathtub effect’ resulting from the natural landscape, whereby water cannot easily escape[3],  locals tell us the problem is basically being pushed downstream.

“If it is the case that urban development is impacting the natural watercourses and exacerbating risk, then there is a need for this aspect of land use planning in the floodplain to be urgently reviewed by the state government. While an emergency management strategy will help keep people safe in the event of natural disaster, there is considerably more that we can do about flood events which may be linked to man-made impacts.

“We need better place-based intelligence to support people living in the flood zone, including a flood warning system with clearly mapped escalating flood zones, easily identified and well-maintained evacuation routes so that people who live in flood-prone areas know where they sit in relation to the situation that is changing around them and are prepared with a clear course of action. 

“WSROC is convinced that State and Local Governments working collaboratively can do so much more to deliver an effective flood warning and evacuation program for the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley. We need more leadership on this, and substantial consultation with local communities, to develop better flood risk management and community resilience” said Clr Calvert.


Media contact: Kate O’Connell or Kelly Gee, 02 9671 4333, 0425 871 868 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  





Last modified on Monday, 19 April 2021 15:42

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