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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2727


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (22:00): I rise tonight to congratulate the hardworking service organisations in New South Wales during the recent floods and to draw focus to the issue of flood mitigation, particularly in the Hawkesbury region, which affects the people of Macquarie. Many communities in the Hawkesbury were affected by the severe weather that much of New South Wales recently experienced. People residing in the Hawkesbury are fortunate to live close to the Hawkesbury River, which plays an important role in our region's natural environment and economy, providing much in the way of recreation, agriculture, sport and tourism for our residents and visitors. However, living close to the river presents a challenge when flooding occurs.

The Hawkesbury runs through a natural flood plain. Many families who are new to the area would not recall the last major floods, 20 years ago. However, this gap in knowledge was filled by the hardworking, dedicated volunteers of the SES, the Rural Fire Service and many others who were on the ground early preparing residents for the full likelihood of a flood in the area. Foresight combined with experience meant that not a single resident missed out on a warning when the weather turned sour. The SES doorknocked hundreds of homes, and I was fortunate and honoured to join with them in being able to spread the message of what to do in the event that floods hit. This reduced the number of rescues the SES had to perform in our region, and every one of the rescues that were performed had a positive outcome.

I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank and congratulate all SES and RFS members, who were on the ground doorknocking and preparing our community for the event of a flood emergency. Their dedication and their actions played a vital role in our community's being prepared and staying safe when the waters rose on the first weekend of March. I would particularly like to mention and thank Kevin Jones, the local controller of the Hawkesbury SES, and his team for their constant communication with me, other local members of parliament, volunteers, our local police force, media outlets and our community.

In light of these statements, turning to the issue of flood mitigation in the Hawkesbury region would be prudent. The Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment covers about 22,500 square kilometres and is one of the largest of all coastal river systems in New South Wales. Since 1799 there have been over 120 major floods on the Hawkesbury-Nepean flood plain, with the highest ever flood level recorded at 19.7 metres—some 63 feet—in 1867, completely devastating districts from Penrith to Wisemans Ferry. There are now over two million people residing in the Greater Western Sydney region. While only a certain number of these residents are living on the flood plain, the numbers have increased, with many facing the threat of major flooding similar to what we are seeing further west in our regional centres. This poses a serious threat not only to residents but also to business, property and infrastructure downstream of Warragamba Dam.

In July 1995 Sydney Water commissioned a report by Australian Water Technologies and ERM Mitchell McCotter entitled Proposed Warragamba Dam flood mitigation dam EIS. The report made a number of recommendations. While the options mentioned would not eliminate flooding, they could reduce the size and impact of a flood by up to 4.5 metres.

Greater Western Sydney continues to expand in population, both residentially and in terms of business. To ensure that our region's future is sustainable, now is the time to implement and plan a flood mitigation strategy, extending beyond an evacuation strategy. The coalition is already taking proactive steps through the establishment of a coalition dams task force. The task force has visited the region and is working with our New South Wales state government colleagues to create a flood mitigation strategy that will work hydrologically, environmentally and economically. The next logical step would be to conduct a feasibility study on the possible options for flood mitigation in the region that is up to date with today's employment figures, population figures and the economic figures of Western Sydney.

The coalition's dams task force, chaired by Andrew Robb, is acutely aware of the need to develop a sustainable and effective flood mitigation strategy in the Hawkesbury, and I look forward to the release of the joint state government-task force report for the nation in the coming weeks. The coalition and the New South Wales government are committed to ensuring communities most at risk of flooding have strategies in place to safeguard against major disaster and devastation. (Time expired)