Residents push a car through floodwaters in Coffs Harbour in 2009.
Residents push a car through floodwaters in Coffs Harbour in 2009.

Flood fears as Boambee Valley development touted

A MAJOR Coffs Harbour planning document has caught the eye of a resident who says more planning can and should be done to avert disastrous flooding.

Since the last major flood in 2009, four flood detention basins have been constructed in the Coffs Creek catchment, providing much needed flood mitigation.

However, it's development in the neighbouring catchment of Boambee/Newports creek which has Sawtell resident and former engineer Tad Soroczynski concerned more needs to be done to avert disaster.

When Mr Soroczynski saw North Boambee Valley earmarked for future development in the Coffs Harbour Regional City Action Plan he became concerned the city was destined to repeat mistakes made in the past by developing in areas which increased flood risk.

"This proposed development is in the catchment area of Newport creek, meaning the proposed development will greatly increase flood flows to the industrial area and also cause potential flooding of the Base Hospital," he said.

Tad Soroczynski at his home in Sawtell. The engineer began his career as part of the post-war reconstruction and expansion of Warsaw, Poland during the 1950s.
Tad Soroczynski at his home in Sawtell. The engineer began his career as part of the post-war reconstruction and expansion of Warsaw, Poland during the 1950s.

The catchment includes the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, C.ex Stadium and Coffs Harbour Education campus, all of which have also seen an increase in development in recent years.

He said that all development had some impact on floods and if an effort wasn't made to ensure appropriate mitigation was in place before more development began in the area the situation could be made worse.

"It is obvious that Coffs Harbour had been developed without consideration of future flooding because flood mitigation in Coffs Creek has only been introduced after flooding."

"Already we are playing catch up and if nothing is done, as more development takes place, it will get out of hand."

Mr Soroczynski said planning early was even more critical as rainfall events are expected to increase in intensity and frequency because of climate change.

There have been two reports on the catchment since the 2009 floods impacted the Coffs Harbour Hospital and Education Campus - a 2011 Flood Study and a 2016 Floodplain Risk Management study.

 

Floods in the Coffs Harbour area in 2009. Photo: Trevor Veale
Floods in the Coffs Harbour area in 2009. Photo: Trevor Veale

 

The 2011 study did not take into account data from the March 2009 flood but the subsequent FRM study made several recommendations to reduce the affects of flood.

The issue has been on the radar of Coffs Harbour City Council, and biodiversity, coastal and flooding team leader Sally Whitelaw said flood mitigation work was taking place.

She said investigation and design for a key recommendation - to create a detention basin in Upper Boambee Valley - was complete and Council was in the process of seeking State Government funding.

"The basin will alleviate any flooding on that residential area and will also benefit the hospital and other infrastructure lower down in the catchment," she said.

"If we get the grant we hope to be able to commence construction in 2021/22."

More than $165,000 in grants for the investigation and design of the detention basin and the works surrounding the Coffs Harbour Health Campus was provided by the State Government in 2017.

Ms Whitelaw added the impacts of new developments on potential flooding was taken into account in a variety of ways, including when undeveloped land was being subdivided and when development applications were submitted.

This was then considered when flood studies - in each of the LGA's catchments - were conducted and updated over time.

"We have planning for new residential areas and development in general and the North Boambee Valley residential area has been on the cards for a very long time."

"Coinciding with that are site-specific flood studies done for that release area and the North Boambee Valley Flood Plan Risk Management Study all that information was used … so we know where is appropriate for new residential areas and where is not."



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