Residents call for action on stormwater

Gerringong residents affected by stormwater flooding following torrential rain on 8 August are disappointed Council hasn’t shown much interest in their plight, after the event which saw a number of properties severely damaged. This video shows the strength of the event.

“Not only have they not called around to inspect the damage, I am not satisfied with their response to my email asking what they propose to do about the inadequate stormwater system,” says Kim Sultana.

Her house in Henry Lee Drive had up to 700mm of water around and through it.

“The whole house has to be gutted – floors, walls, kitchen, you name it.

“I can’t believe this has happened a second time.”

The first time was just three months after buying the house in late 1998.

“That time Council came and cemented pipes down the side of the house.

“We don’t understand how they could have built houses over what used to be a water course without sorting out the drainage properly.”

Their neigbours on the Fern Street corner, Mahn and Rebecca Darley, suffered the same fate, but without the benefit of contents insurance.

“Our carpets, furniture and possessions weren’t covered, but the gyprock, which has to be replace up to 1.2m and the fences are covered by insurance,” he says.

His attempt to claim from Council’s insurer, based on them being responsible for stormwater, has been denied.

“I’ve gone to Gareth Ward to help get a guarantee that it won’t happen again,” says Mr Darley.

“We’ve owned this property for three years and lived in it for two and didn’t have a clue it had happened before.

“We have three young children and can’t live in our house for at least three months.”

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In a statement to The Bugle, Council said, “Kiama Council has been collating reports about our stormwater system, following the severe storms last month.

“Council staff have inspected these sites to address immediate maintenance issues.

“A report is also being prepared to decide what long term solutions may be required, and the resources involved.

“Our stormwater and drainage infrastructure is designed to Australian standards.

“However, these standards are not designed to accommodate the extreme rainfall experienced on 8 August.”

On that day, over a short period, 86.8mm fell on Gerringong, after 220mm falling over the previous two weeks.

After overwhelming a drainage pit and catchment hollow on the other side of Bridges Road, water flowed down via the grounds of Chittick Lodge, and through the yards of Fern St and Henry Lee Drive houses.

Down the hill it met up with another stream of water which came through Jim Eames’ yard from a large block behind Chittick Lodge, creating havoc for houses such as the Sultana’s down the hill.

While his house wasn’t as badly affected, as someone who has witnessed all three floods through the area since the Council estate was developed Mr Eames is concerned by Council’s reaction this time.

“On both the previous occasions, when, as of now, residents were shattered by having lost their furniture, personal belongings and their homes badly damaged — to the extent several will be out of their homes for up to five months – at least they experienced the sincerity of personal appearances by then mayors Joyce Wheatley and Sandra McCarthy along with Council engineers like Noel Edgell and Bryan Whittaker.”

The late response he has just received to a report he lodged with the Council Engineer’s office has not impressed him.

“Having had years of experience in the media world I see this as a classic case of shifting the responsibility on to someone else in the hope it all goes away.

“If Council is not responsible for the provision of adequate drainage then who is? “

Dave Mouat bought his house on Fern Street, adjoining Chittick Lodge, two years ago also having no idea the neighbourhood had flooded before.

He counts himself lucky he only lost fences and garden, as his next door neighbours were flooded out.

Having attended the South Precinct meeting where Mayor Mark Honey was present, he followed it up with a letter to Council, “I basically said we pay a fee every year for flood mitigation and storm water control, and this is what it should be for.

“I got a reply from him saying he was speaking with the engineers and hopefully they can come up with a solution, which I wasn’t impressed with.

“Nobody from Council has been in touch with me or my neighbours, and I haven’t even seen people from the Council around assessing things.”

Bernie Gardner got not only the water from the holding pond, but also the torrent that came through Jim Eames’ place.

He too says he is grateful they aren’t as bad off as others, before he tells of the two inches of water throughout his house, the downed fences and having to write off all their furniture.

“It was two foot high outside – I knew from the way it happened before that the best thing to do was to keep the doors shut.

“When the water got down the hill it was white water.

“Those poor people have suffered dreadfully.”

He is another not impress-ed by Council’s response to the situation this time.
“Council has been conspicuous by their absence, both when it was happening and after.

“In fact the Police came and took us to the Town Hall as an evacuation centre, only for them to be told that Council wasn’t opening it for us.”

Councillor Mark Westhoff’s home was so badly affected by the flood that he has had to move out, but neighbours complain he doesn’t appear to be championing their cause.

“I’m not an engineer, but I trust they can come up with a solution,” he told The Bugle.

Council is encouraging affected residents to lodge reports with them, to assist with long term stormwater planning, and to contact Service NSW to enquire about Disaster Assistance.

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