When it comes to flooding in Maitland, no one speaks with greater authority than Chas Keys.
The Maitland man was Deputy Director General of the NSW State Emergency Service from 1997 to 2004, has written widely on floods and flood management in professional journals, newspapers and books.
But he has taken a new tack with his latest book that hit the shelves this week: Maitland Speaks: the experience of flooding.
"I wanted a book that more closely examined the human and personal stories and the ways in which floods have influenced the thinking of residents and the evolution of Maitland," Mr Keys said. "So the book is in two parts. The first is based on interviews with individuals who have lived Maitland's floods going back to 1930, and I describe their experiences and seeks out their attitudes and perceptions regarding flood risk.
"The other part examines the impacts of floods on the community as a whole and looks at the evolution of people's attitudes over the course of Maitland's history - from fear and resignation to complacency and, in some cases, even apathy."
The people Mr Keys interviewed are well known, long time Maitland families. Some of the Maitland names sprinkled throughout include Pitnacree farmers Dal and Maurine Osborn, author Barry Maitland, thespian and puppeteer Frank Oakes, former Ken Lane's Menswear proprietor John Lane and wife Lynn, former mayor Graham Dunkley, long time Horseshoe Bend resident Mick Belcher and so on. By his own admission, Mr Keys wanted a fresh look at an age old problem that has always been inextricably linked to Maitland's history.
The book focuses on the devastating 1955 flood but also deals with earlier big floods (1893, 1930, 1949) and the floods of more recent times, including the 'Pasha Bulker flood' of 2007 and, more recently, the 'superstorm flood' of 2015.
In compiling the book the author paid tribute to the Maitland Mercury for its coverage of floods over nearly 180 years: He said the paper had told the stories of people's engagement with flooding "with understanding, sympathy and insight, often in great detail".
While his book is, to a large extent, a flood history, it is more than that - it heads into different directions ... science, community psychology, urban planning, local politics, emergency management, local literature and art, and potential future flood regimes given the added issue of climate change.
Maitland Speaks: the experience of flooding (RRP $35) is available at McDonalds bookstore (High Street) and Harry Hartog bookstore (Green Hills); and is on display at the Visitors Centre.