The long-awaited multi-million dollar CSIRO flood mitigation study on the Northern Rivers has entered its community consultation phase after repeated delays.
Northern Rivers Resilience Initiative workshops are scheduled to start across the region this week, with Goonellabah listed as having the first meeting last night.
The CSIRO says the project is to inform allocation of $150 million in federal funding this financial year.
That funding, in turn, is to help the NSW government fast-track resilience efforts.
Quick announcements, slow signatures
The state and federal governments announced the commissioned scientific study shortly after floods first devastated the region in late February.
The announcement inspired the Lismore City Council to stall action on existing mitigation options presented by a local flood risk management committee, a decision Greens Councillor Vanessa Ekins labelled insulting.
But work on the CSIRO study was slow to start, with revelations in late May the federal election and subsequent change in leadership had created a major administrative delay: the signing of CSIRO’s contract with the National Recovery and Resilience Agency [NRRA].
The NRRA is ultimately responsible for $11.2 million in public funds allocated to the initiative.
Richmond River to star in CSIRO study
CSIRO project manager Chris Chilcott said in July the agency was arial mapping seven local government areas on the Northern Rivers, scanning for water systems and movement across the land.
Catchments included in the mapping are the Richmond River, Brunswick River, Clarence River and Tweed River, with detailed flood modelling and scenario analyses for the Richmond River catchment to feature.
Federal Emergency Management Minister Senator Watt says the project is to focus on understanding the impact of climate, catchment and hydrological drivers on flooding.
All flood study submissions to be treated equally, says CSIRO
Meanwhile, the CSIRO has hired Alluvium Consulting to carry out stakeholder engagement, including via online submissions and a survey.
Meetings and workshops were to have started last month but a CSIRO spokesperson said the whole project had experienced several delays.
CSIRO project leader Dr Jai Vaze last week said his team of scientists had finished reviewing more than 200 flood mitigation ideas from groups and individuals on the Northern Rivers, including local governments.
Dr Vaze said the seven flood-affected local governments were consulted about identified and prioritised existing flood mitigation project proposals but was adamant every submission made to the initiative would be treated equally before the CSIRO suggested rankings.
Ballina Shire flood study sessions this week
Community information and feedback sessions are scheduled for Lismore, Wardell and Ballina this week, before moving to Casino, Maclean, Grafton, Murwillumbah and South Tweed.
The CSIRO says people can drop in to meet with a project team member and review the agency’s preliminary study results.
People can discuss their views about what measures or criteria are important to them and their community and which ones should be used to assess identified flood mitigation project ideas and proposals.
In the Ballina Shire, the flood-ravaged town of Wardell is to host a drop-in session on Wednesday 19 October at the Catholic Church Hall from 11am to 6pm.
Another session is to be held at the Ballina Jockey Club from 11am to 6pm on Thursday.
Byron Shire flood study sessions in November
Two community engagement sessions are planned for the Byron Shire, one in Ocean Shores and the other in Mullumbimby.
The first is to be held on Wednesday the second of November between 11am and 6pm at the Ocean Shores Country Club and the second on Thursday, 3 November between 11am-6pm at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club.
More information and registrations for the drop-in session are available online.
The CSIRO is due to release an interim report by the end of the year, with a final report due in May 2024.