The overworked phrase, “who could have seen this coming”, used by all levels of government to excuse the debacle which was the response to the recent flooding event across the Northern Rivers, has been rightly ridiculed.
For 40 years, the world’s scientific community, through the UN, has been warning us that the changing climate will generate more frequent and more extreme weather events, and have begged the world’s governments to take appropriate action, with little success.
The failure of those governments to make meaningful attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is inexcusable. However, to fail to plan for those forecast catastrophic weather events, verges on criminal neglect. The recent flooding saw lives and property lost, businesses forced to close, and thousands rendered homeless.
In the Clarence Valley, the response to four decades of warnings about the inevitability of increased flooding has been zero - something that even this latest disaster seems unlikely to change.
In fact, Clarence Valley Council’s first act when reviewing the cause of ponding in some areas in Iluka, was to examine past rainfall data. This led to the hardly surprising conclusion that: “The significant rainfall has led to a saturated catchment and high-water table, exacerbating the time taken for water to disperse”.
Council’s statement continues with: “There has been no event or combination of events since records began that comes close to the rainfall totals recorded at Yamba”, going on to say: “We need to be aware that the most efficiently designed drainage systems are not built to cope with rainfall totals equal to that recently experienced”.
Having had 40 years to plan for just such an event, we have to ask why haven’t adequate drainage systems been designed, and installed in all new developments?
Alongside one of Iluka’s ponding problem areas, a 140-lot subdivision is currently converting 14 ha of bushland into roofs, concrete and bitumen, all combining to channel rainfall at speed through an apparently inadequate stormwater system directly into those ponding hotspots.
Clarence Valley Council must take its “Climate Emergency” declaration seriously, and plan and act accordingly.
- John Edwards
Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , June 1, 2022.