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State ‘mum’ on CVC’s flood mitigation plea – cost shifting the culprit

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) plea to the NSW Government to “upgrade flood management works” funding has fallen at the first hurdle.

In a letter to Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, former minister for local government Gabrielle Upton wrote, “…at present, there is no intention to increase the funding allocation for maintenance of infrastructure”.

Mr Gulaptis’s and Ms Upton’s letters were received and noted, without debate, at the May 28 CVC meeting.

Ms Upton noted that CVC receives an “annual payment” from the NSW Government “under an arrangement” that has been “funding flood mitigation works since the late 1950s”.

“This offer was made as a transitional arrangement and there was no intent to index this amount as time passed,” she wrote.

Staff advised councillors at the December 2018 meeting that the NSW Government had offered CVC $364,800 over a four-year period – $91,200 per year.

“A significant issue is the grant of $91,200 per year has not been indexed since the program commenced,” the report stated.

“This has significantly reduced the value of the floodplain maintenance assistance in real terms over time and effectively ‘cost shifted’ an increased proportion of the floodplain maintenance costs to local government.

“Inflation in the 20-year period from 1997 to 2017, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s calculator, was 66.3%; i.e. to equate to $91,200 in 1997 the 2017 grant would needed to have been $151,760.”

The mayor’s letter to Mr Gulaptis stated that CVC’s Floodplain Risk Management Committee (FRMC), which is comprised of community representatives, had “noted several state and federal funding announcements for major floodplain works in other regions”; highlighting the NSW Government’s $8.2million funding announcement in March for Lismore City Council’s flood mitigation works.

The mayor wrote: “The FRMC noted that funding to upgrade flood management works has generally been made after an area suffers significant damage from a flood event.

“The FRMC considers it would be beneficial to have a pro-active approach to improving flood immunity before rather than after a flood event.

“Improving flood immunity reduces the probability of flood damage occurring in the first place and, thus, the amount of disaster recovery funding required.”

Ms Upton encouraged CVC to apply to the “next round of the Floodplain Management Program”, which she said, will soon be open for applications.

The mayor’s letter to Mr Gulaptis advised that CVC’s “shovel ready … $5.1 million ‘Maclean Levee Stabilisation’ project … is ready to proceed immediately when funding is available”.

Mr Gulaptis told the Independent that CVC “needs to press its case with hard evidence so the government recognises the works needed in the Clarence Valley are a priority”.

“Then funding can be allocated according to the priorities of need right across the state,” he said.

“That makes my case easier when I go to the relevant minister to argue a case for council.”

At the December 2018 CVC meeting, councillors also decided to “approach federal representatives”; however, CVC has not yet tabled any responses.