NSW Farmers is calling for a comprehensive, ongoing review of devastating flooding during La Nina to prevent future threats to people, property and livelihoods.
Communities across the state experienced heavy rainfall and widespread flooding from March 2021 to the end of 2022, causing an estimated $5 billion in damage to homes, businesses, roads and other infrastructure. NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said many people had reported unprecedented damage resulting from these floods, and called for a review into floodplains and planning decisions that may have exacerbated the problem.
“We’re concerned that floodwater went places it hadn’t previously gone, and a lot of my members are saying they think public and private ‘flood works’ may be a contributing factor,” Mr Martin said.
“Levees, roadways or other structures built on the landscape alter the speed, depth and movement of floodwater, and we’re concerned that this is why we saw unexpected flooding that presented a real threat to lives.”
“We support the NSW Water Minister’s call for improved modelling, but beyond that we need a comprehensive, ongoing review of public and private works so we can get to the bottom of what went on and more importantly understand how to prevent future flood impacts.”
Many months after the floodwater subsided people were still trying to pick up the pieces and recover from these natural disasters, Mr Martin said, but among farming businesses the doubt and uncertainty was presenting real challenges to future productivity.
“Some of our members have serious doubts about whether buildings and paddocks that were thought to be safe might be inundated again, and they’re wondering whether they should rebuild a shed or repair a roadway if it might simply be destroyed again,” he said.
“This doubt and uncertainty is having a huge impact on productivity – this is a time when we need every part of agriculture firing on all cylinders to really drive our economic output.”
“It’s the same for towns, we’re seeing entire communities find it difficult to get insurance, and that’s having a major impact on those people – with so much doubt and uncertainty for homes and businesses, and with such a difficult rebuilding effort still ahead of them, we would hate to see once vibrant towns collapse.”
Mr Martin said the state government had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better from this major, widespread disaster, and set up a process that would protect people, property and the environment, and improve planning certainty into the future.
“Flooding rains can’t be avoided, but we can avoid exacerbating the problem, and we can prevent future loss of life, of livelihoods, of property and of business,” he said.
“We need to make sure we have fit-for-purpose planning rules and accurate modelling that takes into account the cumulative impact of flood works and looks at the movement, depth and velocity of flows.”
“This might involve aerial scans and talking to people on ground about their experiences, but the end result we want to see is that if a proposed new levee bank or roadway or dam will flood a town or a property, it gets changed to avoid that impact.”
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