By Darren Coyne
Ballina Shire Council is facing a potential bill of up to $537 million to raise the island to a level that would withstand flooding caused by climate change and other factors by 2050.
Planners North director Steve Connelly, at the last meeting of the council, put forward the $537 million figure, when councillors were considering adopting the long-awaited Ballina Floodplain Management Control Plan.
Council staff disagree with the figure, estimating that filling the floodplain would cost about $75 million.
Either way, future developers and ratepayers are facing major costs if Ballina island is to escape becoming the ‘Venice’ of the north coast.
According to a report to this week’s council meeting, staff estimate filling the remaining private land in Ballina island to the 2050 height level would require 530,000 cm of fill, and 300,000 cm for West Ballina.
‘Using the cost for filling suggested by Edge Consulting from their work preparing the Ballina Major Retail Centre Strategy, the cost of this filling is estimated to be $75 million,’ the staff report says.
‘The Planners North estimate is 3,500,000 cm at a cost of $537 million.’
As for roads, Ballina island has 52 kilometres of roads which would require 460,000 cm of fill, costing $16 million. West Ballina has 21 kilometres of roads which would cost $7.5 million.
To replace the 73 kilometres of roads entirely, the council estimated it would be facing a bill of $143.5 million, while Planners North put forward a figure of $415 million for just 46.2 kilometres of roads.
Council staff concede that while there are major differences in the costs associated with filling, no other viable alternatives have been identified.
‘It is however a reasonable position for council to invest in further investigations to ensure it is satisfied or otherwise with its policy position,’ staff say.
‘In particular a study of the feasibility of a combination system of levees, floodgates and pumps would appear to be the most appropriate focus for this work.’
Staff argue that the new floodplain management strategy being considered by the council provides a more flexible approach for developers.
Changes to the strategy would allow developers to either fill to the minimum floor height or to come up with designs that ‘addresses the relationship between the building and the gap between the building and the gap between the floor and the fill.
‘For example this could be achieved with a frame on stilts with the gap screened by lattice type partitions,’ the report says.
Councillors will consider their options at Thursday’s meeting, which begins at 9am in the Ballina Shire Council chambers in Cherry Street.