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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

New early warning flood system for north of Byron Shire

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Celebrating Saturday’s announcement. L to R: Phil Brewin, Lyn Barnham, Tamara Smith MP, Cr Basil Cameron, Dee Hayes, James Flockton, Bek Brewin, Ben Franklin MLC, Cr Michael Lyon, Troy Grant MP, Dillion Orchard and Scott Grimster. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Saving lives and property is the key driver behind the $250,000 grant announced on Sunday afternoon in Billinudgel. The Stronger Communities funding package will allow Byron Shire’s existing flood network to be completed.

‘In the 2017 floods Billinudgel village was virtually under water before the SES even knew there was a flood warning. This motivated Bek Brewin and Duncan Day to work with James Flockton from Byron Shire Council on an early warning system for the Marshalls Creek/ Brunswick River catchment area,’ said local Greens MP Tamra Smith.

‘Unlike flooding in the largest catchment area in NSW – the Clarence, the catchment area of Marshalls Creek and the Brunswick River changes quickly and regularly. What this means on the ground for community is that Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) flood warnings are not subtle enough or quick enough to assist residents and businesses in low-lying land in Billinudgel, Ocean Shores and South Golden Beach.’

The new system will update the hardware as well as the developing a localised computer model that will predict the flood levels more accurately than is currently available via the BOM.

‘Small catchments like this are simply not a priority for the existing system or for the flood warning authorities,’ said Duncan Dey.

‘It will cut warning times, and make their predictions more accurate.’

Calibrated rain and river gauges (linked to BoM) will provide data to a calibrated flood model which will give early estimates of flood levels, updated live as water levels rise or rain continues.

‘This is an exciting project for our shire with immeasurable benefit that will be far reaching for many decades to come, with completion expected December 2019,’ said Ms Brewin.

‘Warnings will be issued to SES and Council or a specialised monitoring service initially. Once confirmed, notification warnings will be sent out to the public (including likely flooding and timing at many locations). This will be done by way of text message from SES or the specialist monitoring service or both. There will be a further opt-in system that will allow residents to give their details directly to Council by way of its flood warning website,’ she said.

Once completed, the network will have a target time of three to six hours warning, depending on location and rainfall intensities.

‘The network will be locally driven and cover urban centres from Billinudgel to Suffolk Park and will also cover rural areas where road access is often affected,’ said Ben Franklin MLC who was joined by the emergency services minister Tony Grant for the announcement.

Working together

‘It was great to see the community and council working with state and federal agencies – the BOoM and SES as well as state government representatives to deliverer a better outcome for our community,’ said Ms Smith.

‘It was sad to hear that the approval had been sitting on someone’s desk in government waiting for an announcement since last August because we are after all talking about people’s lives and the sooner the technology is in place the sooner people are ready for flood events.’

The flood warning system is due to be completed by December 2019.

‘Byron Shire Flood Warning Network would like to thank the various community members and organisations that supported us in our application,’ said Ms Brewin.

‘This is an exciting project for our Shire with immeasurable benefit that will be far reaching for many decades to come.’

Fire control

Another $128,000 was announced for the relocation of the far-north coast fire control centre to central Mullumbimby.

‘Moving the fire brigade to join the police and ambulance services will make their communication seamless and improve collaboration between services during both an emergency and in the recovery period that follows,’ said Mr Franklin.

‘The new site will also provide meeting spaces for the fire brigade to hold training sessions with vulnerable members of the community.’


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