Recovery from Major Flooding

By Dr Peter Gangemi - Mayor of The Hills Shire Council

An update on the recovery from major flooding in The Hills At the Council meeting last night, the following Mayoral Minute provided an update to the community on the recovery efforts from the floods. I thank Councillors for supporting my mayoral minute unanimously. The text of the mayoral minute is found below

“Recovery from major flooding

The Hills Shire Council has sustained more than $11 million worth of damage to parks, infrastructure, roads and other assets in the wake of the 2022 floods. This is the second major flooding event in the past 12 months and it’s possible that it won’t be the last for the region. We anticipate the damage bill to increase as more issues are identified.

I’ve seen the destruction first-hand during a tour of impacted areas. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much damage was sustained and the scope of work that’s needed to restore parts of our Shire to a condition where residents can simply access their homes again.

One of the sites I visited was Wisemans Ferry Park. Large trees, mud and rubbish, including mattresses and even an animal trough, cover the length of the once beautiful and picturesque riverfront parklands.

This much-loved park will remain closed for some time as repairs are carried out. Council anticipates that clean-up works can begin as early as Thursday, March 24. Once the debris has been removed, Council can begin restoration. Work will be staged to ensure the playground, amenities, barbecues and carpark are in working order as quickly as possible.

I want to thank Council officers and contractors for getting our roads back in working condition again. Our roads incurred a significant amount of damage from the influx of water, and crews worked around the clock to fill potholes and stabilise roads to keep them open to commuters and residents.

Council officers and geotechnical consultants are still out inspecting our road network for damage and stability issues, including rockfall sites. I thank residents for their patience and understanding, and I ask that they continue to drive to conditions, as some roads are still being repaired, including Pages Wharf Road, Chapel Hill Road and Mud Island Road – all of which sustained significant damage.

Extensive work will also continue on River Road over the next week. Council crews will remove sand, debris and fallen boulders and contractors will commence cleaning pits and pipes along this section of road.

A patrol will be carried out early next week to fill in potholes that have been exposed following the removal of sand and debris. Further restoration may be required once a report is received from the geotechnical engineer on how best to repair the damaged sections.

While it was difficult seeing the damage sustained to our assets, it’s been heartbreaking to witness the impact the floods have had on people’s livelihoods. But our community remains strong and I saw this first-hand at the Flood Recovery Centre at Wisemans Ferry.

The Centre offers a range of support services and resources to help those who have been impacted, including understanding the financial assistance available, accommodation advice, help with replacing lost documents, mental health and wellbeing services, clean-up services and insurance and legal support. We also have a Council officer onsite.

Staff have been very attentive and it’s great to see friends, neighbours and complete strangers taking those who had been impacted to the Centre. In fact, 220 people have visited since it opened on Thursday, March 17.

Apart from road works, Council has received 174 requests for private stormwater and site management (sediment) issues. Of those, 102 have been completed, with 72 still under review. Requests were varied but focused mainly on the overflow of water, disconnected and blocked drainage to private dwellings, the influx of overflowing water from road networks, failing inter-allotment drainage easements and sediment escaping from building sites.

The flood clean-up is also making it difficult for Council crews to do their regular maintenance of parks, playgrounds, reserves and other assets. Long grass and waterlogged soil is hampering mowing and using machinery safely without damaging the ground. Council crews are working hard to get to these jobs as conditions permit, but our priority remains on the flood recovery effort. This means it may take a little longer to get to maintenance works and we thank residents for their understanding.

I’m proud that Council could be of assistance to those seeking a dry place for their animals to stay. We had 49 horses, two dogs, a cat and a sheep stay at Castle Hill Showground, which was transformed into an animal evacuation centre during the floods. I’m happy to report that all the animals have now left the centre and returned to their homes.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Greater Sydney Local Land Services and RSPCA for their work at the centre. I would also like to thank our emergency crews, SES, RFS, police, ambulance and everyone else who has helped throughout this flood crisis.

In particular, our Hills SES remains the busiest unit in the Metro Zone, exceeding 1000 requests for assistance this year alone. They managed the emergency response at Wisemans Ferry, even when power, landlines and mobile phone reception and data was down during the floods.

They also handled 51 tonnes of sand, and the unit along with helpers filled and supplied over 4000 sandbags. Our SES volunteers are unpaid and have contributed an excess of 3000 hours during this natural disaster, including helping with the flood rescue and supplies, as well as arranging welfare support, organising and packing sandbags, and providing equipment and resources. These are incredible figures and I can’t thank our Hills SES enough. They are extraordinary people with such big hearts.

There’s also the behind the scenes work that goes on with our SES, such as catering, logistics and administration. Each area contributes to the overall success of the Hills SES and keeps them supported as they complete their important and lifesaving work. So thank you to these members of the SES.

I also wish to give thanks to the NSW Government for supporting Council financially to recover. The damage for these assets is not insurable and beyond Council’s normal budget processes.

The situation is far from over, and more work is needed to rebuild our impacted communities. But I know we will get through this difficult period. Our community spirit remains high and I am optimistic for the future.

Accordingly, I move that:
1. This Mayoral Minute is received.”
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