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Moves to flood proof NSW
Released 1 February 2011

The flood crisis in Queensland has prompted local councils in NSW to invest in flood prevention.  

Buying up flood-risk properties, proposing levees and banning major development in flood plains are some preventative measures being fast-tracked by councils across NSW.

The flurry of activity has been prompted by the Queensland flood crisis and is being aided by new mapping technology that shows the flood risks for low-lying areas.

Some councils are hiring drainage experts and urging local communities to prepare for the risk of flood, while others are exhibiting flood studies that include proposals for dams, basins, channel works and flood-proofing of buildings.

Hornsby Mayor Nick Berman says his council wouldn’t be “going down the path in Queensland where the tough decisions were ducked”.

He says there had been “hostility from landowners” concerned that their properties would be devalued. However, he added that local government “cannot shy away from responsibility”.

Tony McNamara, President of the Planning Institute of Australia NSW, says that many council areas were in a bad position with regard to floods because early settlers had designed so many towns around rivers.

Building on riverfronts, he adds, will affect property values. Sea walls and levees can help, but Tony says the best practice “is to map the flood-affected areas and build away from them”.

Over the past 10 years, $240m has been invested in numerous floodplain risk management projects across the state, according to NSW Floodplain Management Authorities. Around two-thirds of this funding comes from the State Government (the Commonwealth may provide one-third for some projects), with local council providing the remaining one-third.

Maps point to flood risks in Sydney

Rising sea levels are likely to cause serious and regular flooding in Australian coastal cities by the end of the century, according to maps released by the Federal Government.

The Department of Climate Change, Environment and Water also predicts that a high tide event could be expected to occur in low-lying areas of Sydney and the NSW central coast at least once a year, but possibly more frequently, around the year 2100.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says the maps will help communities prepare for the effects of climate change. “The Government recognises that coastal areas of Australia are a priority for adaptation action, with many communities vulnerable to impacts such as erosion and sea inundation,” he says.