I am a flood survivor, victim or whatever term the media wishes to use to describe a person directly impacted by floods. In 1990 my family home, located in the Hawkesbury Valley on the outskirts of Sydney, was flooded to a depth of 40 cm in a 20-year flood. Fortunately, the house was two stories and we were able to ‘vertically evacuate’ to the top story and wait for the floodwaters to retreat.
However, my business was not as fortunate. I was in charge of Longneck Lagoon Environmental Education Centre, a special school with the NSW Department of Education that runs environmental field studies for school students in and around the lagoon which is now part of Scheyville National Park. Unfortunately, the original people that erected the centre were ornithologists who wished to have their base building as close to the lagoon as possible for their bird watching days. Back in the 1970s there were not the development controls as there are these days, and this building was constructed within the 5-year flood extent. Consequently, the building was flooded to a depth of 1.5 metres in the 1990 flood (a tiddler compared to the huge 1867 flood, another 5 metres above this level!).
The damage to the building was lessened due to several prior smaller floods (1988-1990) that enabled us to look at preparedness including staff evacuation and moving equipment. However, it would have taken up to a month after the 1990 flood to return to normal functioning, a cost covered by NSW Government insurance.
With this experience in mind, I was particularly interested in the recent Channel 7 news report (lead article in this edition of FM) about ‘leaked’ government modelling showing 100,000 residents at risk of flooding in the Hawkesbury Valley. The raising of Warragamba Dam will help mitigate flooding in the valley albeit with environmental impacts upstream.
Of course minimising future development in the floodplain will also help manage risk. However, it is the places like my old home and business that are still there and part of those properties at risk.