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Byron Shire
March 24, 2023

Lismore flood mitigation causes confusion

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South Lismore viaduct being dismantled. Photo supplied.

Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) president Beth Shelly is accusing the Nationals candidate Austin Curtin of calling for the removal of the unused railway embankment along the side go Kyogle Road as part of the ‘Fight the Flood’ petition he is asking residents and businesses to sign.

Talking to Echonetdaily Mr Curtain has clarified that the ‘Lismore stage one flood mitigation works’ he is asking people to support do not include the removal of the unused railway embankment.

‘The $8.3 million we are asking for is to get started on the first part of the flood mitigations that has been approved by the Lismore City Council and has a development application (DA),’ said Mr Austin.

‘It is to remove the high points of soil in the flood plain channel.’

According to a press release by Lismore City Council in mid-June they are planning to ‘Commence excavation of the airport floodway by removing approximately 400,000 cubic metres of soil from high points in the floodway.’

Mr Curtain has emphasised that this is the only work that he is calling for support for as part of the ‘Fight the Flood’ petition.


According to the June press release Lismore City Council will also be commencing work on the ‘Removal of viaducts from the railway line which will allow more floodwater to be directed away from South Lismore and down the airport floodway’ and the ‘Removal of the unused railway embankment along the side of Kyogle Road.’

It is the removal of the ‘unused railway embankment’ that has raised concerns for NRRAG president Beth Shelley.

According to Ms Shelley Council’s Strategic Planning Coordinator, Paula Newman has clarified that ‘Council is in the process of commissioning consultants to prepare a new Lismore Floodplain Risk Management Study to look at a range of options,one of which could include removing railway infrastructure, forming a channel to divert floodwaters around Lismore.

Commenting on the possible removal of the embankment Ex Byron Councillor and Hydrologist, Duncan Dey says, ‘The crux of the matter is that Lismore Flood Committee thinks removing the railway embankment may help diminish the side effects created by the town levee. Levees always have negative impacts overlooked when they get built.’

Mr Dey states that it is important to wit for the ‘science to come in’ before a final determination on the removal of the embankment is made.

Chairperson of Lismore City Council’s Floodplain Management Committee and Lismore City Councillor Bill Moorhouse has clarified with Echonetdaily that while the viaducts have been partially removed they ‘can’t go ahead with the removal of the embankment until we have had good flood modelling done’.


The modifying and/or diversion of Leycester Creek as a means of diverting floodwater away from both the CBD and South Lismore was on alternative presented by the Citizens Review Committee. This proposal would entail excavating ‘a major channel around South Lismore from Kyogle Road to Loftville Bridge on the Casino Road’ and the ‘removal of two million cubic metres of soil.’

Councillor Moorhouse has stated that while the project had merit at this stage with a ‘price tag of $90 to $120 million is prohibitive in the eyes of the (Floodplain) committee and there are possibly better ways to spend the money’

However, councillor Gianpiero Battista told Echonetdaily that considering the cost of the 2017 flood was between $200 and $300 million, with floods sometimes taking place twice a year, all options should remain on the table.

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  1. Well, there are two steps here and it seems the second step needs a lot of work and planning
    The first step is the ‘Removal of the unused railway embankment along the side of Kyogle Road.’
    The second set is to put the unused railway embankment back up again.
    Who is responsible for putting the embankment back up again and what is the cost to the residents?

  2. Thomas George goes and the Nats tell us his replacement is a young, environmentally conscious fellow. But it appears that Mr. Curtin, if elected to the NSW parliament, will simply be another yes-man for developers and miners. The Lismore community has long known that the Nats want to rip up the rail tracks and hand sections of the corridor over to developers to make a killing. Curtin will follow orders just like George did.
    Oh, and does anyone need reminding that CSG licences for the Northern Rivers still exist and can be sold off at the whim of an LNP government at any time?

  3. Removing dirt from airport floodway will produce very little benefit unless the defunct railway embankments are also removed at the same time.

  4. The defunct ground level railway line ponds water there and under the bridges, which should also go, I am referring in particular Union St, Terania St & Alexander Parade.
    Crane Street bridge also would block a Fire Engine at 2.5metres.
    They went from Woodlawn Road and out at Binna Burrs, because likewise they were an eyesore and a traffic hazard.
    Un-Level Crossings too, could be smoothed out, the whole situation needs clearing up, we could dream of SKY RAIL, and scenic sections of the corridor, for walkers and cyclists as they are doing around the Tweed.
    Honestly let’s move on, without losing anything but the Traffic &Flood Hazard.


    Will Goode.

  5. Just wondering what qualifications you have to make that statement, Graham? It appears that there’s absolutely no proof at this time that it would make any difference to the flooding. Any measurements taken at last year’s flood have not even been look at yet.

  6. Digging channels to divert excess water from Leycester creek in the hope of alleviating flooding in Lismore is an expensive folly of which the only beneficiaries will be the eath moving contractors.
    You could engineer a complete new river course and the results would be the same as the proposed channel because once this water enters the tidal Wilson River downstream from Lismore it is just as likely to run back upstream to Lismore given that water finds its own level.
    This occurred at the river junction in Lismore during the aptly named April Fools day flood in 1989.
    To understand Lismore’s flood plight think of it like this, with a 2 metre tide in Ballina you will get 1 metre tide in Lismore which means the river falls 1 metre over a distance of 100 kms. Engineering a solution to that unfortunate fact is not very likely.

  7. To all Nationals, So our rail corridor has to be the scapegoat for human inaction due to Cyclone Debbie flood! Why? Last week, a wonderful, commonsense flood story in the Northern Star showed the preparedness of a family who started preparing for the ‘Debbie’ flood, at their own initiative and past learning, taking note of how and when to prepare for a flood!
    They did not have to worry about the mixed messages and especially from way way away from Woollongong! To the new residents, they seemingly relied on these mixed messages. Consequently, once the levee topped, the floodwaters roared through in a horrendous rush.
    In local information days here in North Byron, we found and as has happened many times, our local SES had to try and contact ‘the messagers’ that their flood warnings were wrong! Well well, this has been known by a lot of locals for a long time but would the authorities take any notice? No way. Since, this local input is being put in place.
    What a way to get rid of our HISTORIC RAIL CORRIDOR – IGNORE THE LEGISLATION, HYPE UP THE FLOOD CRISIS – bring the machines in – destroy the hard fought for original building of OUR CONNECTION ACROSS THIS MASSIVE NORTHERN RIVERS REGION – A TOURIST MECCA into the bargain.
    My parents who supported and worked for The Nationals so much, would be horrified at your actions. Take it from me, I say, you have ignored so many people who have had such incredibly wonderful plans for train tourism and for the NO BRAINER for our HERITAGE RAIL CONNECTION CORRIDOR built by hard slog, there is a saying – “you had shot yourself in the foot” – meaning of course – you will live to regret this disgraceful action!! Talk about like a ‘bull at the gate’! Destroy, destroy, destroy! Vision, vision, vision, what’s that? All the money being tossed around will not cover the damage being perpetrated on our communities by this pre-meditated action to get rid of ‘that flamin rail corridor’. ‘That flamin rail corridor’ that you all fought to save from stupidity and very wrong economic reasons,but backed down, is something I cannot understand and I will never back down from my stance that I have taken all these years. Jillian Spring

    • “My parents who supported and worked for The Nationals so much, would be horrified at your actions”

      Your comment gives me dejas vous all over again, Jillian!

  8. The Wilson River narrows and meanders south of Lismore, to such a degree that water can not be carried our of the town area quickly enough.
    It would appear simple solution, without the need to purchase additional land would be to excavate both sides along the course of the river to provide a greater capacity in times of flood.
    The excavations could provide secondary banks at a lower level than the true banks, such that the water only enters the banked areas in times of flood.
    Further, some bends in the river could be eliminated by excavating short channels.
    Both measures should increase the flow of water downstream from the city and prevent the water backing up in the town

  9. You interfere with rivers on floodplains at your peril. I’m no expert, but at least I have studied fluvial geomorphology. Rivers are in equilibrium, but it’s a dynamic equilibrium that changes over time. Channeling more water west of the airport or straightening the meanders will affect volume, gradient and velocity and is likely to have unforeseen consequences.

    I’m not saying the situation can’t be improved, but don’t spend a cent until the experts have come up with a total plan.


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