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Byron Shire
August 16, 2022

Residents raise flood risk issues over Tweed Council agreement with Gales Holdings

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An aerial view of Chinderah taken in the immediate aftermath of the flood on 28 February 2022. Photo supplied.

The floods of February and March have highlighted the dangers of building on floodplains and residents of Kingscliff, Chinderah and Tumbulgum brought their concerns to the Tweed Council’s extraordinary meeting on July 7. They asked the council to hold off from entering an agreement with developer Gales Holdings on the West Kingscliff development that impacts the floodplain. 

The two agreements that Gales and Council were looking to enter were related to Gales Holdings designing and doing the work on stormwater drainage/flooding strategy for West Kingscliff and Chinderah and the new link road between Turnock Street and Tweed Coast Road (Turnock Street Extension). In return Gales Holdings were to get contribution credit against future developer contributions.

‘We believe that development on Tweed Floodplain is exacerbating floods and slowing the clearance of flood water,’ said Jenny Kidd, President Tumbulgum Community Association (TBA) in her address to councillors. 

Residents felt that flooding in Kingscliff in 2022 had been exacerbated by building on low-lying areas. Photo Lindsay Gleeson

‘West Kingscliff is part of the Tweed Floodplain, water flows into this soak area, albeit after it negotiates man-made levee structures such as the M1. The same floodwater and local stormwater from the area then needs to clear….

‘For those affected by flooding it is no longer life as normal. Residents are concerned about their lives, livelihoods, and value of their assets. We suggest it should not be business as usual for the Council.’

This position was supported by both the Chinderah District Residents Association (CDRA) and the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association (KRPA). 

Peter Newton, President of KRPA had written to councillors saying ‘we believe any discussion or decisions around development on low-lying and flood-prone land at this time is premature and sends a poor message to communities that are also feeling pressured, still trying to come to terms with the impact of recent flood events and are deeply concerned about future occurrences.’

Inherent knowledge

The report on the agenda item referred to the ‘inherent knowledge of the Gales team and the data and models they have available in relation to stormwater drainage/flood strategy for West Kingscliff’ being in favour of Gales taking on the work. However, Ms Kidd pointed out that ‘In March at the peak of our flood clean up another Gales DA was out for comment (DA 22/0145 for Lot 21 DP 1082482). One of our members had the time to read that proposal and submitted a brief comment. His concerns were about the accuracy of the Flood Study by Venant Solutions submitted with the DA. The study used dated flood information preceding the M1 and most recent flood events. The proposed flood heights in the modelling did not reflect our local experience.

‘After the recent flood our representative visited examples of developments with the mayor and Council engineering staff and we shared our concern about the cumulative effect and development based on the status quo,’ she said.

‘We are concerned about transparency. The Confidential Deeds of Agreement proposed do not bode well for the community. We have been excluded by Commercial in Confidence agreements in the past.’

Tumbulgum School after flooding. Photo supplied.

Confidential committee

The discussion of the Contribution Credit Deeds of Agreement with Gales – Kingscliff was taken into a confidential session of council for discussion. 

The motion was passed with five councillors in favour with Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) and councillor Dr Nola Firth (Greens) voting against. 

Responding to questions from The Echo following the meeting Cr Cherry said ‘Council took on board the concerns raised by the community, particularly that provided by such groups as Kingscliff Residents and Ratepayers Progress Association and Tumbulgum Community Association’.

‘As you can see by the resolution, we were able to specify that the details of the deed contained in the attachment – the part that describes what Council will be requiring to be modelled and considered in the Strategy – will be made available to the public and Gales has subsequently agreed to this requirement,’ she explained. 

‘The important thing for people to understand is that Council gets to work with Gales to establish the scope and briefing for this Strategy and to specify what must be included and by whom. This will address environmental and cultural considerations but also the ramifications of filling on existing residents and will put forward options for drainage going forward to ensure that our existing residents are not in any way negatively impacted by the filling approved on this site.

‘Gales has also agreed that it makes sense for the Strategy to take into account recommendations made by the Flood Inquiry and they have committed to this.

‘It was important to lock this agreement in place due to the skyrocketing prices of consultant’s reports and documents such as this, as it all comes back to how much the ratepayer has to pay. This was always a possibility that the strategy would have been prepared by a consultant rather than Council officers and it will allow Council to consider how the site is managed going forward.’

Tumbulgam Community Association president, Ms Kidd, told The Echo ‘I’ve noted that the Mayor has said the council has taken on board our concerts – we will continue to watch the situation closely. 

‘While it remains a balance between cost to the council there is a risk to lives, livelihoods, and value of assets to people living on the floodplain. My concern is the pressure for decisions to be made on financial grounds ahead of the flood inquiry findings being made available.’


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