A NSW Government program aimed at increasing floodplain compliance should lead to regular reviews, says NSW Farmers.
The NSW Government announced it would start bringing unapproved flood works into compliance to return water to floodplains, wetlands, rivers and creeks as part of the Improving Floodplain Connections Program. According to a statement from the Department of Planning and Environment, there were levees, embankments, roads, dams or channels – some of which were up to 30 years old – that blocked the natural flow of floodwater.
NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said it was a welcome move that could help explain the unprecedented damage and inundation caused during the 2021/22 floods.
“A great many farmers have expressed their view that during the past 12 months we have seen floodwater where it has never been seen before, and there are concerns that this may be due to all manner of flood works – public, private, approved and unapproved,” Mr Martin said.
“While there can be no doubt the sheer scale of last year’s extreme weather was a big factor in the flooding we saw, as the ninth-wettest year on record, I think it would be wise for the next state government to swiftly undertake a review of how that floodwater moved through the valleys and the functionality of their floodplains.
“I would suspect – and there are many who agree with me – that there was a big difference between where floodwater went and where a planner’s modelling predicted it would go.”
Mr Martin said there were hundreds – if not thousands – of cases across the valleys where floodwater had inundated houses, sheds, paddocks and roads that had never been remotely under threat of floodwater in the past.
“I welcome this effort from Water Minister Kevin Anderson in starting to get compliance on unapproved flood works,” Mr Martin said.
“Water is one of our most precious resources and it must be used according to the rules that are put in place.
“We’ve had a working demonstration of the impact of flood works and the theory hasn’t translated into practice.
“This is important to understand because farmers are saying decisions based solely on modelling and criteria have been shown to be quite wrong, and we can’t allow this dysfunction to happen again.”
Mr Martin said he wanted to see a strong commitment to rollout a review of the impact of all public and private flood works across flooded valleys in order to prevent similar damage in the future.