Debate about 2007 flood in Maitland

Next month the Maitland Historical Society will host a debate to mark a decade since the devastating storm that flooded the Hunter and washed the Pasha Bulker ashore. 

The Queens Birthday storm of 2007 was the last time the Belmore Bridge’s ‘major flood’ level of 10.5 metres was breached. 

As the flood approached the State Emergency Service called for the evacuation of central Maitland, Lorn and the rural areas of the floodplain of the Hunter River. Hundreds of people left their homes, but many stayed behind.

As the water subsided, debate raged in the community as to whether the evacuation should have been undertaken at least in the levee-protected urban areas. The Bureau of Meteorology’s prediction overestimated the height reached by the flood, and none of the areas behind levees were inundated.

The Maitland and District Historical Society will revisit the issue on Tuesday, June 6.

The discussion will take place in the Society’s Rooms at 3 Cathedral St, Maitland, beginning at 5.30pm and led by Michael Belcher and Chas Keys. 

Michael Belcher is a life-long resident of Horseshoe Bend, a keen observer of flooding and its consequences and a former member of the council’s Floodplain Management Committee.

In 2007 he refused to evacuate. He argued at the time that the flood was never going to be large enough to justify the SES’s evacuation. He is critical of other aspects of the management of the response to the 2007 flood as well.

Chas Keys was from 1997 to 2004 the Deputy Director General of the NSW SES. His work focused on flood management including warning and response around the state and he was involved in the SES’s planning for floods in the Hunter Valley.

In the aftermath of the 2007 flood he argued the evacuation decision was justified by the Bureau’s forecast, as the flood was developing, that it could be at least as severe a flood as the event of 1971 - the biggest seen in Maitland since 1955.

Mr Keys will outline the meteorological and hydrological underpinnings of the flood and the bases of the evacuation decision that was taken, after which he and Michael will discuss that decision and its merits or lack of them. The discussion will be moderated by Kevin Short.

The Society asks attendees for a gold-coin donation to cover the costs of refreshments.

Contact details for the Maitland and District Historical Society are:

Mobile: 0438 623299 Email: maitlandhistorical@gmail.com