Flood plan could have adverse impact, say residents
The owners of more than 1800 flood-prone properties in Woy Woy, Empire Bay, Booker Bay, Woy Woy Bay and on St Huberts Island may be adversely impacted by Gosford Council's proposed approach to flood planning and management, a residents' group has claimed.
Coastal Residents secretary Mr Pat Aikensaid he hoped Gosford Council would make major changes to its draft Brisbane Water Foreshore Floodplain Management Plan.
He said that a survey conducted by Gosford Council as part of its drafting of the floodplain management plan for Brisbane Water found that more than 2000 Peninsula properties were classified as flood liable.
According to Mr Aiken, those properties will be identified in new planning certificates as being subject to current and future coastal hazards.
Gosford Council's 2014 floor level study showed the Peninsula suburbs with flood-prone properties were Woy Woy (710 properties in 26 streets); St Huberts Island (442 properties in 19 streets); Empire Bay (368 properties in 12 streets); Booker Bay (208 properties in nine streets); Woy Woy Bay (100 properties in one street); Ettalong (94 properties in 12 streets); Wagstaffe (49 properties in three streets); Blackwall (39 properties in six streets); Pretty Beach (34 properties in three streets); Killcare (20 properties in three streets); Phegans Bay (10 properties in two streets); and Umina (one property).
Mr Aiken claimed the floor level survey was "highly flawed and as a consequence will damage the livelihood and wellbeing of affected residents".
He said the council's Catchments and Coasts Committee "has never been afforded an opportunity to actually review the survey prior to exhibition.
"Despite the many concerns raised by community representatives regarding the survey and recording of floor levels for homes affected by flooding, Council has published data that it knew contained errors.
"This information is now in the public domain with the potential to be misused by home insurers and other parties as was the case when Council previously identified communities such as all of St Huberts Island being affected by a 1 in 100 years flood event when, in fact, it wasn't.
"Home insurers such as the NRMA and APIA used this flawed information to determine their risk when insuring homes.
"Council has not conducted the most basic process of proofing the data it has now published.
"It is of great concern that Council will also use this flawed information to inform future planning certificates and a revised development control plan for flood liable communities," he said.
Mr Aiken said he was also critical of Gosford Council's strategy to develop variable flood planning levels.
"The information that is necessary for residents to understand exactly what the flood planning level will be for their property is not included in the plan," he said.
"The missing information is the asset life that will be allocated according to the type of development and land zoning.
"Council's example of an unknown type of residential development using Davistown and an asset life of 35 years is highly deceptive because it does not describe what type of residential development the example applies to.
"It could be an outhouse or a mansion which undoubtedly will provide two different asset lives or planning periods.
"They've given us nothing, anyone who is affected.
"There is no information in this huge document that tells you what the flood planning level will be for any suburb at all."
Mr Aiken said Council should include a schedule of flood levels based on development type, asset life, land use and actual flood levels by suburb.
"They're not going to tell you until you put a development application in," he said.
The longer the asset life, the higher the projected sea level rise that will be applied to development controls for a particular property.
"Council has done no future planning for what is going to happen; you can't just keep raising floor levels, you need to look ahead and plan ahead 100 years," he said.
Mr Aiken wants to see Gosford Council develop an adaptation plan along the same lines as the plan being put in place by Lake Macquarie Council.
"It has basically got triggers so if sea levels rise to a certain level, the Council will take specific action.
"It is all around raising land in advance so that people, as they rebuild their homes, they can raise the land so it stays above flood level and they maintain the value of the property."
Mr Aiken said Gosford Council and the NSW Government should be putting funding arrangements in place to enable property owners to raise their land in advance of sea level rise.
"The draft plan has got a provision in there but it is not necessarily promoted as an adaptation process and there are still some issues with how it will be done."
He argues that St Huberts Island is a model that shows the effectiveness of land raising as a flood abatement strategy.
"As all the new lots were created they were designed to be over two metres above sea level and they all slope down to the road so the roadways become floodways in a major flood and remember the flood in Brisbane Water is only about a six hour peak.
"We are not saying the government has to put in heaps of money.
"We are saying if they made a grant arrangement available when you had a house and knocked it down, the problem with depreciating property values would disappear."
He said it is also about fixing current flooding problems on the Peninsula where properties included in the floor level survey have already been flood-affected for the past 100 years.
"It is pointless putting high rise in Gosford if you are going to leave thousands of homes in limbo for another 10 years until they put an adaptation plan together.
"It is obvious that Council's intention is to later apply a much higher asset life for substantial residential development such as two-storey homes built in typical flood liable areas today.
"It is entirely unreasonable that affected residents have not been given an opportunity to make an informed comment related to this issue.
"Council's failure to actually develop an adaptation plan as a part of the process of developing the BWFFMP is a failure to follow through on promises it has made over the last five years.
"All that Council has put in place is an unknown Flood Planning Level, more plans for plans and a mechanism that will ensure that every year the Flood Planning Level will increase without ever explaining or stating what that level will be.
Email, 6 Oct 2015
Interview, 8 Oct 2015
Pat Aiken, Coastal Residents Incorporated
Reporter: Jackie Pearson