Parliament Speech - Old Noarlunga Flood Recovery 20/06/2017

Mr PICTON ( Kaurna ) ( 15:27 ): Last year, the town of Old Noarlunga suffered a very significant flood when the banks of the Onkaparinga River burst during a very significant storm that hit the city of Adelaide. Old Noarlunga has been in the electorate of Mawson since the last election and is poised to return into Kaurna at the next election. I particularly thank the member for Mawson for his advocacy for people in Old Noarlunga during the difficult period they faced. In fact, he and I filled quite a few sandbags together during one of the flood events that Old Noarlunga faced, and we have been working together on issues there since.

Over the past few weeks, I have been visiting people in Old Noarlunga and talking to many local residents. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to have completed visiting all homes in the township. Unfortunately, many of these residents' houses flooded during those floods and they have been faced with the very difficult task of recovery since then. Flood damage to a house is very devastating. The effects are not always understood widely by the community. Intuitively, a flood sounds less damaging than a bushfire, but the effect of recovery after a flood can be similar. It is not simply a matter of getting a mop and a bucket; a house needs huge renovations and works to address a flood.

Many residents I have met have only just been able to return to their home after very substantial works needed to happen and hence they had to leave their home for over six months. Some residents in the area still have not been able to return to their home. Understandably, home insurance has been a key concern for local residents, both in terms of ensuring that residents receive the claims assistance they need from their insurance companies and also that they are able to keep their insurance and not suffer future significant rises in their premiums.

Recently, I have been assisting a strata unit that was encountering significant difficulties with their insurer. I was able to help organise a meeting with that insurer, where those issues were resolved, at least for the time being. We will continue to monitor that. There are obviously concerns about the management of the Mount Bold reservoir to ensure that what happened last year can be prevented in the future.

As people would know, Mount Bold is a major source of Adelaide's drinking water supply, so it is not a dam that is just there to prevent flooding. SA Water has systems in place to manage the water levels, and the predictions of water flows into Mount Bold leading up to the storms were, sadly, too conservative. There was a second storm event shortly after the first one. SA Water was able to better predict the water flows on that occasion and was able to prevent the Onkaparinga River from breaking its banks that time. This experience, I am sure, will better inform their modelling of the dam and rainfall in future.

I have met with SA Water and advocated the views and concerns of residents of Old Noarlunga to SA Water directly. I have also encouraged them to increase their communication and to answer questions at an upcoming meeting of residents. On the night of the flooding, when houses were about to be flooded, sandbags were at the ready but, sadly, there was no sand available to fill them, which is the first of a number of issues people have with the City of Onkaparinga, the local council.

I am advised that the council had used all their available sand that day to address their own council sites, leaving no sand available for residents. Residents had to wait several hours while sand was sourced from other local council areas as none was available locally. This meant that many houses were not able to properly protect themselves. Local residents have also raised concerns about the stormwater system in Old Noarlunga. Sadly, many residents of Loud Street were flooded not from the riverbanks but from flooding coming from the council stormwater system on the night.

The stormwater system has valves installed to prevent this, but on this occasion at least one of those did not work and residents were flooded because of that. Since then, the residents have found it near impossible to talk to the Onkaparinga council to discuss their concerns. I have had one resident say that a senior council person, a senior elected member, told them not to publicly raise their concerns. Others have tried to ask questions but have been getting legal letters in return. In my view, this is not the way the council should behave toward its constituents and ratepayers.

I have written to the council raising these concerns and will continue to raise them on residents' behalf. We have now been able to convince the council to at least help organise a public meeting with all the key agencies in attendance. I have been very proudly working closely with the Old Noarlunga Community Incorporated, in particular Michelle Ward from that organisation, on this public meeting, and I look forward to that meeting as a chance for the community to receive information and discuss their concerns.

Lastly, many people have raised with me the issue of the swing bridge in Old Noarlunga that was destroyed by a tree in the fast-flowing river during the floods. We are working closely with minister Hunter and the environment department, and I am hopeful that this is something that will be able to be restored in the future to restore this important access for local residents and visitors alike. I will continue working hard to represent the residents of Old Noarlunga and ensure their proper recovery after this horrible flood event.

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