Maitland flood historian Peter Bogan has spoken out in support of the State Emergency Service’s plan to gain statewide development and planning authority.
In January the SES announced it would push to have authority granted to become a part of the planning and development approval process, including at local council level.
Maitland City Council opposed the plan saying state guidelines for building in flood-prone areas were adequate, but Mr Bogan said this might not be the case.
“While all local decisions on planning were informed by the state guidelines for building in flood-prone areas, the guidelines do not and can’t cover all matters, especially how floods can impinge on areas outside the floodplain,” Mr Bogan said.
He said many residents of the Gillieston Heights area were unaware of the flood risk to their properties, despite the history of the area.
Yet nothing was established within the planning process to better inform these new residents of their need to be prepared for isolation of up to 10 days.
“To the old hands it has always been a given that East Greta, Gillieston Heights, is cut off in flood times and had to be dealt with as a matter of course,” Mr Bogan said.
“There are photos from the May 1913 flood showing miners rowing back into West Maitland station after a shift at East Greta pit.
“So the isolation of Gillieston Heights is nothing new and has been dealt with in various ways over the years.
“Why, when planning permission was first given to subdivide land in that area, was there not an attempt to inform newcomers what they would face in flood times?”
Mr Bogan said simple steps, such as the production of booklets to inform residents that in times of flood they could be isolated for seven to 10 days and how to prepare for such an event, could have helped the community before the April 2015 super storm.
“Perhaps, at that time, input from an outside source, such as the SES, may have picked up this error and could do so in the future if they are allowed to have input into flood planning,” he said.
“The flood of April 2015 was a backwater flood and against nearly 200 years of Maitland flood history it only rates as minor.
“Backwater floods are part of Maitland’s history and the topography of the area dictates that they will be part of our future when the help from the SES will be needed by many.”