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Byron Shire
July 6, 2022

Action after the flood: Mullum residents discuss flooding

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Flooding at Federation Bridge in Mullumbimby. Photo Simon Haslam.

Mullumbimby Residents Association (MRA) held a public meeting at the Ex-Services Club on May 16, and with approximately 150 attending it exceeded expectations. Feedback following the meeting suggests it was a welcome opportunity for people to share their experiences and to offer ideas they feel could be implemented to help in the future.

MRA welcomed the attendance of a number of councillors and Byron Shire staff, including General Manager, Mark Arnold and Mayor Michael Lyon. While Scott Moffatt (BSC Flood and Drainage Engineer) outlined drainage work that was being undertaken in the Shire, he was the only Byron Shire Council representative who addressed the meeting.

We were pleased to hear from Gary McKinnon, Resilience NSW North Coast Director, who outlined the role of the service in which he plays a leading role.

Mullumbimby’s CBD underwater Monday 28 February. Photo Simon Haslam.

An informative presentation by Councillor Duncan Dey, regarding the 2020 Flood Study was well received. He eloquently outlined how a review must be undertaken. He stressed how it should ultimately help shape the planning in the Shire by taking into account the severity of the recent flood.

The meeting was then thrown open for contributions from the audience. Valuable comments, a number suggesting how they felt the flood could have been mitigated, were offered by many attendees.

It came as a surprise to many to hear from a couple of long-term residents that Saltwater Creek used to be cleared annually by Council.

It is now choked by silt and dense vegetation, severely restricting the flow of water. Only a thorough study will determine if clearing it would help in times of flood, but it’s surely worth considering.

Apparent neglect of drainage across Mullumbimby became a theme and was high on people’s wish list for improvement.

Council-owned Lot 22 on Stuart Street, Mullumbimby, is proposed for affordable housing, yet it is also floodprone.

Comments were also forthcoming from a number of people about inappropriate planning regulations.

It was felt some recent developments have not been wise, and have made worse the risk of serious flooding. It is worth mentioning that shortly after the flood, NSW Planning Minister, Anthony Roberts, revoked guidelines for sustainable development which were successfully passed in parliament by his predecessor, Rob Stokes.

They were in place for only two weeks! Failure by such people to accept the effects of climate change means we have a battle on our hands to defeat attempts to use inappropriate areas such as Lot 22 for housing.

The Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre is setting up the flood recovery centre in the Civic Hall as they prepare to support the next phase of the flood recovery. Photo Aslan Shand

The hope of the meeting was that in time that will change and sustainability and resilience will become essential features of design when preparing for the future.

There was widespread acknowledgement of the magnificent role played by the volunteers both during and after the flood. It was felt they filled a significant void left by the delayed response of both State and Federal government.

Flood damaged household goods in Mullumbimby waiting for kerbside collection. Photo Aslan Shand.

Neglect by authorities

The feeling of neglect by authorities was made more apparent when the meeting was made aware of the actions of the Qld State government. An inquiry into their flood experience has already concluded and a report has been published.

All 37 proposed recommendations have been accepted and will be implemented by the Qld government. A significant sum of money has also been allocated to ensure those recommendations are adequately funded. Among the initiatives that are designed to work towards greater flood resilience include voluntary house raising, wet-proofing and voluntary house purchase. All of which are applicable here.

All that has happened while we await the establishment of The North Coast Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC). It is scheduled to come into being on July 1 – a whole four months after the disaster!

There was certainly a general feeling at the meeting that the response by State and Federal government continues to be less than ideal.

We can only hope the NRRC will expedite positive changes, secure adequate funding and be sensitive to the needs of the people in their attempt to re-establish the area. Residents were unanimous in eagerness to build a more resilient community, allowing for a faster and less traumatic recovery after a flood than has been the case this time.

It is the aim of the Mullumbimby Residents Association to advocate on behalf of the residents for improvements to our amenity. We shall continue to do that with your support.

♦ Steve Bellerby is from the Mullumbimby Residents Association.

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