Model development: Coffs Harbour City Council hopes to get early warnings on floods similar to those that inundated the city last year.
Model development: Coffs Harbour City Council hopes to get early warnings on floods similar to those that inundated the city last year.

Coffs company wins flood contract

A LOCAL company with international experience has won a $70,900 contract to design and cost a flood-warning system for Coffs Creek and the Newports Creek-Boambee Creek catchment.

Once Greenspan Technology Pty Ltd has completed its final design a separate contract will be awarded to build and implement the system.

The flood-warning system was the first point in Coffs Harbour City Council’s nine-point flood mitigation plan to help reduce the impact of flooding in the city.

Although the majority of councillors finally supported this first stage of work, when the matter was debated and voted on at Thursday’s council meeting, the matter caused more debate than any other item on the agenda.

Greens councillor Mark Graham wanted to see a ‘people-based’ solution instead and some councillors had difficulty separating the two stages of the development process involved in such a system, as discussions ranged over both.

Cr Graham said he questioned whether a warning system was the best or most financially prudent means of addressing flooding, as many of the actions suggested in the 2005 Floodplain Risk Management Plan relating to community education had not been acted upon.

He said there was a risk of ‘doubling’ up and creating a catchment-specific system which would not be compatible with national disaster warning systems like that proposed by the Federal Government in response to last year’s Victorian bushfires.

Council general manager Stephen Sawtell said they had spent the 10 years before 2009 ‘drought-proofing the place’ and in April 2009 were employing flood engineers.

“The real question is how many years do we wait (for a national system) to come down the line,’ he said. “We need to be doing something now.”

Cr Jennifer Bonfield said she would probably be ‘pushing up daisies’ by the time a national warning system appeared, which led senior councillor Cr Bill Palmer to respond that his daisies would be ‘fairly wilted’ by then.

City services director Ben Lawson said the design and costing tender would be a model development.

“The data won’t be produced until the system is established,’ Mr Lawson said. “It will be building up our understanding of the catchment and allowing us to hone in on the rainfall in certain areas.

Cr Graham said he wanted to see a shift away from technical solutions towards a human solution and would also be interested in gaining a greater understanding of the project. “I do not feel I have been given information to my satisfaction,” Cr Graham said.



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