There is no denying that the Tweed Shire has areas that are flood prone so there was some surprise that there was resistance to taking up the state governments ‘opt-in’ to the Special Flood Considerations clause in the Tweed Local Environmental Plan (LEP).
The Flood Prone Land Package – Standard Instrument set out by the state government has two sections, one is mandatory for councils to adopt while the other is on an opt-in basis.
‘The optional clause allows us to give consideration to floods of more that one in one hundred years,’ explained Councillor Katie Milne (Green) who moved the motion.
‘We are a high risk flood area with flash flooding that builds up very quickly. We’ve already had a one in 500 year flood in the 2017 flood. I think it is important to support whatever flood controls we can in relation to floods. We have a lot of caravan parks, and high risk elderly people in our shire. One part of this new flood clause control is that we can give consideration to flood planning levels greater that 1 in 100 years if we think it is required.’
Councillor Pryce Allsop (Conservative) raised the fact that the recommendation hadn’t been on public exhibition. ‘I can’t believe there is no conversation with these land holders. For a person who owns a property on flood prone land it is scary. This is short sighted… I don’t think this is fair, that people have this thrust upon them. I don’t want to throw another $15,000 on a DA – it will make it impossible.’
Staff clarified that due to the time frames that the state government had imposed there wasn’t time to send it to public exhibition.
‘If I can give some assurance to Cr Allsop it [the opt-in clause] was brought to the floodplain management committee and was supported with a unanimous decision. There are community members on that committee,’ said Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent).
Allsop asked how many industrial land owners were on that committee and raised the potential impact on land values in flood prone areas.
‘This is very much sticking it anyone who has already suffered through a flood,’ he said.
‘If there is going to be additional red tape are we going to pay compensation to business owners?’
Mayor Cherry responded to Cr Allsop saying that ‘My family also has a business in the floodplain. It is not about devaluing property, it is saying we need to consider more than just 1 in 100 floods when we are considering planning issues.’
Keeping it real
‘We have to go this way,’ said Councillor Ron Cooper (Independent).
‘Because when there is a flood above that level people will as ask why did you let us build there? Why didn’t you tell us? We are at risk of litigation if we don’t. If you get additional information you start to lift stuff internally, it gives you forewarning. The best way is for businesses to be informed by council. For council to engage people to let them know what’s happening and why.
‘We got caught in the March 2017 flood that came up higher than 1 in 100 year flood. You can’t just sit on your hands – we aren’t doing anything to them – we are trying to protect them and their businesses. In a flood prone area like this we do have to take this seriously,’ he told the meeting.
The councillors voted to ‘opt-in’ to the clause to allow assessment of more than 1 in 100 year floods with Crs Milne, Cherry, Cooper, Reece Byrnes, (Labor) and James Owen (Liberal) in favour and Crs Allsop and Warren Polglse (Conservative) against.