EMOTIONS were running high in Toora last Thursday (February 15), as residents railed against a proposed South Gippsland Shire Council flood overlay.
The impromptu two-hour public meeting – which saw Council planning manager Paul Stampton, strategic planner Lyndal Peterson, Cr Alyson Skinner and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority statutory planning manager Adam Dunn fielding questions from townspeople – was dominated by explanations about hydraulics and laser mapping, with the potential effect on the 29 properties on which the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay (LSIO) has been placed, left in confusion.
The consensus among townspeople is that VicRoads, Council and whatever government department is responsible for keeping the flood prone Muddy Creek free of weeds, have been slow to address flood issues – with the “one percent” flood events the LSIO addresses being a far greater risk because of inaction. Indeed, many in the crowd believed the flood risk would barely exist if larger culverts replaced smaller ones and the creek was kept clear. The view would be rejected by Mr Dunn.
Some people also complained that they did not receive a letter from Council telling them of the proposed overlay.
As one man said, “We live on Grip Road and we didn’t get a letter. My neighbour told me about this meeting today. I knew nothing about it. I’ve got five acres and I went to sell a couple of acres with a house on it. It hasn’t flooded here in a hundred years, I’ve been told. Why is there all this flood bulls..t?”
Mr Stampton said it was all about the WGCMA mapping the area “very accurately”. Though he conceded he thought there were, in his opinion, a “few anomalies”.
In addition to the map being circulated by Council, another was sent to residents by the WGCMA, showing a 30 metre buffer zone around Muddy Creek. Mr Stampton was keen to explain that the buffer was not indicative of a flood threat.
“I think that’s where some of the confusion and distress has come. The Shire is responsible for the planning scheme, but then lots of people have got, what looks to them like, different information from another authority,” Cr Skinner told the audience.
“That’s ridiculous and I only found out about that five minutes before I got in the door,” Mr Stampton said.
Mr Stampton assured people that “your land is not devalued any more by lines on a map”.
“When people come and see your property not many people look at the planning scheme – about one per cent. Before I became a planner I didn’t look at a planning scheme,” he said.
“It’s obvious where the creek floods and a potential buyer will see where the wet bits are. The other thing is, the insurance company has all this data and more. They’re not stupid. Their money’s on the line. They’re well ahead of the eight ball on coastal inundation, river flooding, the whole bit.
“They haven’t impounded much down here. I predict this (the overlay) will make no difference.”
A woman in the audience said she had spoken to her insurance company about the overlay and was told it would be taken into account.
Another audience member suggested the Council culverts on Victoria Street were too small to handle water flow, exacerbating flooding.
“They could always be bigger,” Mr Stampton said.
“Can I ask a general question of Paul?” Cr Skinner asked. “Even if the creek was cleared and the right sized culvert was there, that wouldn’t stop this mapping?”
“Of course it would!” someone cried out.
There was a chorus of agreement. Mr Stampton said the problem of flooding would still exist. Townspeople argued it would be greatly reduced by a coordinated response from authorities. And so, the heated debate continued.