There is no magic bullet: Councillor admits some locals will be angered by flood strategy

February 27, 2018

THE final report on how to deal with future floods in Rochester is set to divide the community.

Following extensive community consultation, Campaspe Shire Council agreed last Tuesday night not to progress the construction of levees and diverting water flows in the town which was recommended in the Rochester Flood Management Plan.

But despite 73 per cent of the community voting not to support the recommendations, Rochester ward councillor Leigh Wilson acknowledged the rest of the township who voted yes.

‘‘What we want is a magic bullet,’’ he said.

‘‘But that is not possible and I think this is the best way forward for the whole community.

‘‘The outcome is not a surprise knowing the community but there will be many frustrated people in Rochester.’’

Mayor Adrian Weston said the plan, prepared after the 2011 floods, suggested constructing additional levee banks and reinstating a breakaway flood flow path from the Campaspe River to the east.

“The plan recommended these works in concept only and recommended further investigation into the impact of the works outside of the Rochester township estimated at $7.1million,” he said.

The recently completed feasibility report considered the wider impact of constructing the levees and diverting the water flows to prevent a repeat of the flood events from 2011, which saw the Campaspe River flood affect 80 per cent of Rochester and surrounds.

Council completed the additional investigation and in November sought the community’s voice through information sessions, in-street sessions and an online survey.

They were asked if they supported the works, recognising while the works would provide significant benefits to many people whose houses and commercial buildings would be protected they would also significantly impact the eastern rural community.

“A resounding 73 per cent of the community said they did not support the works,” Cr Weston said.

A community reference panel, made up of representatives from the Rochester township and rural areas downstream, supported council throughout all investigations and consultations.

“The panel considered the benefits of the works, the financial costs and community survey results and agreed it more beneficial to direct efforts into improving the flood warning system and flood response programs,” Cr Weston said.

Council will now work with SES to help it further develop warning and response systems and other non-structural flood mitigation measures to continue to grow the Rochester community’s resilience to flooding events.

“The focus will be on installing flood height markers at locations throughout Rochester, installing floor height markers on all township houses, establishing an evacuation plan providing flood-free havens with access routes, as well as establishing locations for sandbag supplies,” Cr Weston said.

Members of the community panel were also publicly thanked at the council meeting, recognising their local support and input through all stages of the project.

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