Flood mitigation brought to the fore at council meeting

Chapel Street flooded with drains unable to cope with the excess water. Pictures: MARLENE QUIGG.

By Mikayla van Loon

Questions of drainage improvements and flood mitigation were brought once more to the fore as residents and petitioners sought answers from Yarra Ranges Council.

Rosemary Mosely was the first to ask a question at the Tuesday 9 April meeting, reiterating her call for communication and consultation from the council after also submitting last month.

“A comprehensive understanding of the lay of the land and residents’ experiences of patterns of flooding would surely be a valuable resource when plans are being formulated to address and remediate an inefficient council street drainage infrastructure plus the regular ongoing maintenance regime needs to clear gutters,” she said as part of her submission.

In response to her comments and question, building environment and infrastructure director Hjalmar Philipp said the council was developing a drainage newsletter “to keep residents better informed of drainage and flooding issues which we expect to release in the coming months”.

Mr Philipp said this would be in addition to “the council’s several communication mechanisms, including directly with residents on specific issues and more broadly the council’s website.”

Lilydale Flood Watch group member Michelle also raised questions around the mitigation and prevention of flood water given the developments of Kinley and Coldstream estates, as well as if Lillydale Lake’s capacity would be increased to cater to this growth of suburbs.

Each of these items, Michelle said, were raised in a letter of complaint submitted to the council late last year.

“A clear process to respond to the 24 items raised in your previous communications has been established and signatories to that letter have been receiving updates since December last year on the action being taken to address the issues raised; the most recent update was sent on 29th of February,” Mr Philipp said in response.

Since the letter of complaint was submitted, Mr Philipp said the council had undertaken “a series of proactive inspections and maintenance across the area and assets”, like that of improvement works at Nimblefoot Reserve and the Nelson Road crossing, in conjunction with Melbourne Water.

Mr Philipp also mentioned that the Stormwater Management Plan would be a “foundational piece” for flood mapping and drainage works across the shire.

In speaking with Star Mail, Michelle said at the top of the list when it comes to putting the stormwater plan together, “regular, empathetic and genuine face to face engagement” and “inclusive and prolonged and proactive consultation” would be a priority for residents impacted by the experience of flooding.

“[I would like to see] Yarra Ranges Council officers actively survey the land with members of the community whose streets and homes which experience flooding to accurately hear first-hand of the direction, velocity, frequency and the impact of the upstream housing subdivisions and what impact it is having downstream,” she said.

The concerns of the Lilydale Flood Watch group as a whole, as developments and housing continue to grow around the Lilydale area, Michelle said needs to be addressed before the council submits its housing strategy.

“Stronger controls enforced and implemented now by Yarra Ranges Council on developers to reduce the impact of stormwater run off on subdivisions and low-medium rise townhouses given the Yarra Ranges Council is proposing to build 7,500 new homes on known flooding streets according to their Draft 2023 Housing Strategy,” she said.

“To me this is just wrong to knowingly expose an already vulnerable community at risk to further risk of increased flooding, and then to expose the developer and new investors, homeowners or renters to flooding, it is just so wrong.”

As the council heads towards its next budget update, Michelle said Lilydale Flood Watch has made a submission on what the group would like to see attributed to the upgrades of drainage and infrastructure.

“Drainage goes hand in hand with road design and construction. Lilydale Flood Watch has submitted a draft submission for 2024-2026 to the value of $33 million for the Yarra Ranges Council and State Government to invest in roads and drainage upgrade to the 26 streets listed in a combination of Letter of Complaint and Petitions sent to Yarra Ranges Council from November 2023 and February 2024 with over 300 signatories.

“We have been told to resubmit it in April when Yarra Ranges Council seeks submissions from all across the community.

“In our draft submission for $33 million to be prioritised to the 26 streets in Lilydale, we have requested that no special charge scheme should apply to funding the investment to ratepayers for the design, remediation, repair, upgrade or replacement of roads, footpaths and drainage infrastructure and ongoing monthly maintenance.”