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Byron Shire
February 2, 2023

Diverse views of flood mitigation works at Lismore

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Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, Deputy Mayor Neil Marks and MLC Ben Franklin cut the ribbon on the new flood mitigation works in Lismore. Photo supplied.

Last week Lismore’s Deputy Mayor Neil Marks was joined by local state MP Janelle Saffin and MLC Ben Franklin to officially cut the ribbon on the $8.2 million South Lismore Flood Mitigation Project, but there are divergent views on how best to deal with the flood threat in future.

The mitigation project, which was funded by the NSW government, involved the removal of 410,000m³ of soil from a 58-hectare area of land owned by council, to reduce flood levels to the north.

Modelling suggests the project should reduce peak water levels in the CBD, North Lismore and South Lismore by as much as 100mm in a 1-in-100-year flood event.

Supporters of the project say it has already proved its worth in the last two floods that have affected the city, including December’s flood event.

Member for Lismore’s view

MP Janelle Saffin publicly thanked the NSW government for honouring its election commitment to the project, noting that she had secured a commitment to the works from the NSW Labor opposition.

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin. Photo Tree Faerie.

‘Flood protection is a bipartisan issue and above politics,’ she said. ‘I congratulate SEE Civil on the flood mitigation works, which were overseen by NSW Public Works Advisory and Council.’

Ms Saffin said excavated soil was used to fill nearby industrial land on Lismore’s floodplain, facilitating the expansion of the South Lismore Industrial Estate.

‘Recently, I requested flood management plans from Lismore City Council, Tweed Shire, Kyogle and Tenterfield Shire councils,’ she said.

‘Lismore City currently is reviewing its plan and once council determines its next priority works I shall lobby strongly for more state funding.’

Mayor argues for long term solution for all Lismore residents

Lismore’s Mayor Vanessa Ekins told The Echo, ‘Lismore city is built on a swamp and subject to regular flooding. Two large water catchments enter Leycester creek and Wilsons River and meet at Lismore. Because of this, we cannot prevent flooding in Lismore, but we can be prepared.

Map showing the impact of several recent flood study options on a one in twenty year flood (the most frequent predicted flood) including raising south and CBD levees. Blue is less water, yellow to red is more.

‘Council’s floodplain committee has focused on protecting Lismore from small floods by building levees in south Lismore and the CBD,’ she said.

‘Recently proposed options to raise these levees might protect the CBD but will have negative effects on homes and businesses in north and south Lismore. This is unacceptable.

‘The Federal Government’s $10 million election promise flood channel was dug to divert flood waters from Leycester creek to the airport, however modelling shows it offers little protection to the CBD but could increase flooding in south Lismore.

‘We must be careful with plans to modify the floodplain,’ cautioned Mayor Ekins. ‘Modern engineers are focused on capturing and slowing floodwater before it reaches the floodplain.’

Green infrastructure solutions?

Vanessa Ekins said Lismore council’s floodplain committee is currently examining green infrastructure solutions in the upper catchment to reduce flood levels and velocities downstream.

Lismore’s Mayor Vanessa Ekins. Photo David Lowe.

‘This includes revegetating riverbanks, increasing soil humus and planting trees.

‘These job-rich and sustainable projects will not only reduce flooding impacts in Lismore, they will improve farmland, reduce erosion, store carbon and provide habitat,’ she said.

‘We need investment from the state and federal governments in flood mitigation projects that provide long term jobs, increase biodiversity, clean up our rivers and help farmers,’ said Mayor Ekins. ‘In the meantime we watch the weather, and have our flood plans ready.’

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  1. Go Vanessa !
    This is the very first time in over forty years that a Lismore Mayor has ever made a rational and positive statement of forethought and long term planning, and contrasts markedly with the complete and utter shemozzle that was the response to cyclone Debbie. There was no contingency planning at all and an ad hoc approach that was of little to no help in the time of crisis and certainly not to any victims outside the city limits. It will be great to see some hope of sanity restored to some in the council. G”)


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