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Levee repairs ‘not eligible for assistance’

Geoff Helisma Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has been unsuccessful in convincing the Minister that repairs it carried out to the Waterview levee at Friars Lane is consistent with the NSW Government’s Natural Disaster Relief Assistance Program (NDRAP). Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet wrote in a letter to the council, that the ‘levee’ has been assessed as being a riverbank and is therefore “not eligible for assistance”. As a result, the Minister has offered $98, 625, for repairs to “the rock protection at the toe of the riverbank”, towards the already completed project, which cost CVC $710,000. At the March CVC meeting, councillors resolved to “act immediately to make good the damaged flood wall at Waterview Wilton Park and pressure be applied to both our State Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis MP and Federal Member, Kevin Hogan MP, also the State and Federal ministers responsible to obtain the necessary funding”. The repairs were completed in August. Council officers, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and president of the Floodplain Management Association, Ian Dinham, presented the council’s case to Minister Perrottet on May 7. Documentation tabled included “detailed geotechnical and engineering reports which supported Council’s position that the riverbank was in fact an integral part of the levee and therefore qualified as essential public infrastructure”, the report to council states. “Council has not received any explanation with regard to how [the Minister’s] decision has been arrived at and … the questions asked of PW [public works] with regard to its assessment of the claim remain unanswered.” During discussion of the matter at the September council meeting, Cr Karen Toms asked: Is it true that this levee is not on our list of assets and that’s why it was knocked back? Works and Civil director Troy Anderson said: “No councillor, that’s incorrect. “The claim from the public works department … has been that the rock armouring … has not been on council’s asset [list] simply because there’s only been a small part of rock armouring there; and the riverbank itself has formed part of the levee. “…It wasn’t classed as a levee, but it’s integral to the function of the levee; that’s the argument we are making: that the levee, yes it’s above the level of the riverbank and is a structure, however, the riverbank is integral to the levee and its structural purpose. “…That is the argument that public works is denying: saying that the riverbank isn’t part of our asset [and], as such, it is classed as a natural object and therefore not eligible under the NDRAP guidelines.” Councillors resolved to “defer acceptance of the funding of $98,625 … pending legal advice” and to write to MPs Chris Gulaptis and Kevin Hogan and “the respective NSW and federal government ministers to [encourage them to] formally express their disapproval of the decision”. Councillors also authorised “the general manager to investigate the available options for full cost recovery of funds associated with the restoration of Waterview Levee – Friars Lane”. Pending outcomes of the councillors’ directions, the “council is now required to fund $612,000 toward the restoration works associated with the levee”, the report to council states. However, this money was accounted for in the 2014/15 budget and carried forward into this year’s budget, corporate director Ashley Lindsay said. “If the state government decides to fund the levee work; that would reduce the current year’s projected deficit,” he said. Also, the council had budgeted to spend $1,118,128 to restore the levy (as per its estimated claim), which means there is a budgetary saving of $428,128 yet to be accounted for in the 2015/16 budget.