NSW Government's Testers Hollow solution didn’t hold water for long | Editorial

The plot has thickened in the saga of Testers Hollow.

New documents showed that Roads and Maritime Services went to some length to work out how to reduce flooding at Testers Hollow a few years ago. But the state road authority then asked the NSW Government for permission to let it walk away from the problem.

It was unfortunate timing. Only three months after the Roads Minister of the day, Duncan Gay, signed his approval for RMS to abandon flood mitigation at Testers Hollow, the infamous April super storm struck.

Inundated: Cessnock Road at Testers Hollow after heavy rain in January, 2016. Picture: Nick Bielby

Inundated: Cessnock Road at Testers Hollow after heavy rain in January, 2016. Picture: Nick Bielby

The weather event caused an inundation that cut Cessnock Road at Testers Hollow for a whopping 17 days and left Gillieston Heights residents stranded on an island suburb for almost a week.

Obviously, neither the government or the people at RMS could have predicted the super storm – it’s not right to lay blame at their door.

But this series of events, which is one of several revelations in a raft of documents that Labor obtained under freedom of information laws, highlights that talk about this issue has gone on too long – more than 90 years, in fact.

The RMS enlisted Worley Parsons to provide a business case for flood mitigation at Testers Hollow in 2013, after the Liberal Maitland MP at the time, Robyn Parker, raised the issue.

The firm brought back three options – ranging from $7.3 million to protect the road from a one in 12 year flood, to $18 million to guard against a one in 100 year inundation.

But the business case recommended against flood mitigation because the benefit-cost ratio was considered too low. The RMS agreed in late 2014 and, in January, 2015, so did the minister. Then the super storm swept through Maitland.

Labor MPs Jenny Aitchison and Jodi McKay are right when they say the case for flood mitigation at Testers Hollow needs to be looked at again, with post super storm eyes.

The costs of isolation, providing food, medical and emergency services and aid to a community of more than 1000 stranded people needs to be considered.

The federal government has committed to throwing $15 million at the problem, but it’s going to take cooperation from all levels of government to provide a workable solution.

With the state government repeating that it’s investigating the issue, let’s hope that leads to a result quickly.