Condamine flood plain questioned
WITH the floodwaters from Tuesday having ebbed away – but with a long and wet summer ahead of us – questions are being asked about changes made to the Condamine River flood plain though Warwick.
Many locals have long-speculated about the desirability of allowing building within the known flood plain and with a new flood study commissioned last year by the Southern Downs Regional Council still in progress, now seems a good time to have the debate.
One man who is prepared to ask the tough questions is Lyons Street resident Chris Neave.
Mr Neave and his wife Kay are 30-year stalwarts of the street, where good neighbours have helped each other through the last two rounds of flooding.
The retired ambulance officer said yesterday it was the first time his southern end of Lyons Street – just up from Bracker Creek – had flooded in his time there and he is convinced development on the Condamine flood plain increases the risk of property being affected by flood.
He yesterday showed the Daily News a number of sites where fill has been dumped over the years, a practice he maintains eliminates areas of riverbank where floodwater would normally flow, channelling them instead into residential and commercial premises.
He likens the effect to “filling a cup full of water and then throwing in a handful of sand”.
“What happens then?” he asked yesterday.
“The water spills out and it has to go somewhere, it’s pretty simple really.
“There has been a lot of alteration on the flood plain in Warwick and it’s my belief that any filling of it is going to increase the problem of flooding.”
Mr Neave said some locations where the fill – made up of soil, gravel, rock and in some cases building rubble – had been deposited has altered the flood plain by up to five metres.
The main area involved is the sector of vacant land, bounded by Victoria, Sawmill and Condamine streets, between Warwick East State School and the river.
But he also pointed out land on the bank of Bracker Creek, off McEvoy Street, which was the subject of a fiery public meeting during the time Bruce Green was mayor of Warwick.
He also questioned the wisdom of allowing houses to be built in recent years on the flood plain on East Street near the Scots PGC College weir.
The houses were thoroughly flooded this week, despite having been constructed on raised building “pads” designed to make them flood-resistant.
Other locals have labelled the location as a risk to life, with the houses concerned rented by people on low incomes who have few alternatives when it comes to housing.
“Surely when you allow development on the flood plain it has to change the flow path of floodwater,” Mr Neave said.
“In my view the existing fill on these vacant sites I’m talking about has contributed to flooding of houses and businesses.
“It displaces the volume of water that at one time swelled into these vacant areas.
“I just think those in authority need to have a long hard think about permitting any sort of land fill on the flood plain.
“The council needs to ensure no more of this activity takes place and really there should be no development at all on the flood plain. If anything it should be cleared to allow floodwater to get away quickly.”
Mr Neave agreed with the sentiment expressed by other long-term Warwick residents about tree-planting in the Condamine River ‘Green Belt’.
The Neaves’ home was flooded through its lower level which is used as storage space and the backyard, aviaries and sheds copped a hammering this week, but Mr Neave said it was “a godsend” the couple’s home did not suffer the damage others had.
As well as his neighbours, he paid tribute to the emergency services and the SES for their help during the worst the weather threw at Warwick.
But he said it was more than likely Warwick would flood again this summer and he and his neighbours would be well-prepared for it.