Ballina grapples with ways to hold back the sea

Will gondolas one day grace River Street in Ballina? (file pic AAP)

Will gondolas one day grace River Street in Ballina? (file pic AAP)

Darren Coyne

Is Ballina destined to become the Venice of the northern rivers, with gondolas floating down River Street, and levee banks protecting the town from rising seas?

Ballina shire councillors are grappling with that scenario and will attend yet another workshop to examine ways to protect the town from future flooding.

Because much of the town is located on a low lying island, the threat of rising sea levels as a result of climate change present a very real threat.

Coupled with increased storm activity and king tides, areas of the island are often inundated, and the situation is only expected to get worse.

With that in mind, the councillors yesterday voted to defer adopting the draft Ballina Floodplain Risk Management Plan and associated development control plan that have been on public display.

Ballina mayor David Wright. (file pic)

Ballina mayor David Wright. (file pic)

Mayor David said concerns raised during the public exhibition period would be further examined.

Cr Wright said it was generally accepted that continuing to fill the floodplain of Ballina island was not practical.

Instead, the council would look further into protection measures such as levee banks, and raising floor heights.

‘We realize we can’t raise the whole island,” Cr Wright said.

‘When you see what’s flooding now how do you stop that? And how do you put levees in front of places like the Ramada?’

Planners North director Steve Connelly spoke during public access, urging the councillors to consider other options other than simply filling the island.

Mr Connelly was critical that the consultants of the flood management plan had not given enough consideration to building levee banks and associated flood mitigation works.

He said better protection could be achieved with some filling, leveeing and pumping, and the installation of floodgates.

Group manager of Civil Services John Truman said however that the topography of the Ballina floodplain made it difficult to construct levees, however the option would be further examined.

Cr Wright admitted that the situation was difficult.

‘We might have to abandon the place later on,’ he said.

‘The cost of raising roads and drainage is just horrendous.’

The council voted to hold a further workshop on the flood management plan, with a report expected back from staff next month.

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