29 August 2022

'Pathetic’: North Wagga residents dismayed after Wagga council passes flood levee upgrade

| Patrick Morrow
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North Wagga sign

North Wagga residents will finally get their levee upgrade but fear that it might not be high enough. Photo: Chris Roe.

There was anger and disappointment from North Wagga residents at this week’s council meeting as tempers flared over proposed levee upgrades.

A large crowd was on hand for arguably the longest meeting of the year as Wagga City Council dismissed North Wagga residents’ pleas for a one-in-100 year protection levee and instead endorsed a one-in-20 year levee.

“Pathetic,” called out one resident in the chamber as councillors accepted the final independent peer review of its 2018 risk flood management strategy.

After a delay of almost five years, Wagga City Council will now relaunch its plan to give the suburb better protection from rising rivers.

The review was commissioned after the North Wagga Residents’ Association called for a levee equivalent to the one that shields the CBD.

However, the review rejected the calls for the one-in-100 year levee, suggesting that the initial plans for a one-in-20 year levee were sufficient.

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Councillors Dan Hayes and Rod Kendall spoke in favour of the proposed levee options, arguing the upgrade would significantly improve the suburb’s ability to handle future floods.

“The time to act is now, in fact, it was probably a few years ago,” said Cr Hayes.

“This will give a greater level of protection and I think this is a step forward that needs to happen at the earliest possible time,” he said.

Cr Jenny McKinnon argued it was “high time” the levee around North Wagga was raised.

Levee bank

The current temporary levee blocking the entrance to Wilks Park in North Wagga. Photo. Chris Roe.

The lone councillor against the proposal was Tim Koschel who argued for a pause of several weeks to better consult with North Wagga residents.

“I know we need to act in the best interest of North Wagga,” he said, joining the meeting virtually.

“I want to make sure we do have all the feedback from all the residents and all the community and all the stakeholders and just not make a decision on the review that’s come out past consultation from the other reviews.”

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President of North Wagga Community group Fiona Ziff also spoke against accepting the review.

“In a peer review of the 2018 floodplain risk management plan, the report identifies the fact that there was no evidence of any consultation with North Wagga local residents and social impacts of flooding in our community were not considered,” she said.

“In moving this motion tonight in its current form, the council is completely ignoring those facts.”

Despite the objections and outbursts, council voted in favour seven to one, leaving many North Wagga residents dismayed by the decision.

Original Article published by Patrick Morrow on Region Riverina.

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