By ERWIN CHLANDA
“The Territory Labor Government is working to alleviate the impact of flooding in Alice Springs, to better protect residents and support local businesses.”
So says Chief Minister Natasha Fyles today, while her administration is keeping secret what it is doing. Key initiatives recommended by the Regional Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee are kept under wraps:-
• “Trunk drainage preliminary assessment was completed in 2019.” When will the final assessment be completed? No answer. The report is not available.
• “Structural Mitigation: Recommendations 2.1, 2.2 and 2.4 (COMPLETE) and 2.2 and 2.3 (In Progress).” It can be assumed that these contain the nitty-gritty where issues are discussed such as a lake, a dam in the Todd upstream from the Telegraph Station, a fly-over (pictured) through The Gap and a tunnel through the range. The report is not available.
• “Digital modelling of structural mitigation options commenced in 2019, with various structural mitigation combinations considered.” What are the structural mitigation combinations under consideration? The report is not available.
• Ms Fyles explains today that “the recommended flood mitigation option includes trunk drainage measures, which will increase flood resilience, improve flood protection of Alice Springs residential areas in localised flooding events up to a 1 in 100 year event and provide flood immunity for public roads and the national highway”. What are these measures?
• Floor surveys of all habitable properties in the flood zone was completed in 2021 (the report is not available) to inform a cost benefit analysis and options assessment. What are the costs?
• The Planning Study, Stage 1 of the Heavitree Gap – the town’s most significant cultural and scenic feature – is completed. The report is not available. Stage 2 “community consultation is proposed to occur mid to late 2023” .
Ms Fyles (pictured) claims her government “has implemented the recommendation outlined in the committee report, which has investigated structural mitigation measures.
“WRM Water and Environment were engaged to undertake flood modelling for Alice Springs to investigate and assess potential flood mitigation options to reduce the peak flow of a flood.”
What did they find?
Undertaking trunk drainage measures is the only committee recommendation the Chief Minister names in her statement today, and that does not tell us what it will cost when much of the town goes under.
The Alice Springs News has raised these questions with governments and has covered the flood issues for all its nearly 30 years in publication, including reports on August 31 last year and a month ago.
The Chief Minister continues the flood speak of her and previous governments: To “better” protect the town (how much better?); “mitigation measures” does not mean protection measures; “potential flood mitigation options to reduce the peak flow of a flood” or “increase flood resilience” (by how much?) or “improve flood protection” or “reduce the damage” (by how much?).
What the “community can learn about the flood modelling process undertaken to date, the options assessments and the recommended mitigation option to upgrade trunk drainage”, as Ms Fyles puts it, is sparse.
Without saying what they are, the government mentions “recommendations and measures for managing and reducing (by how much?) the flood risk … the department has been investigating (with what result) … assess potential flood mitigation options to reduce the peak flow of a flood.”
Ms Fyles says “the flood modelling uses detailed topographical data”. That was recommended by the committee convened six years ago.
“An options assessment including a cost benefit analysis has been completed to inform a preferred option.” No doubt the public would like to see the figures.
“Design work for the preferred option is anticipated to commence in 2023 and construction anticipated in 2024 [but] Alice Springs has no simple solution.”
PHOTO at top: Werlatye Atherre, a women’s sacred site, also known as Junction Waterhole, in the Todd upstream from the Telegraph Station, where more than 30 years ago a dam was planned. Controversy raged whether a flood mitigation dam, or a lake, or nothing at all should be built there. Works were halted by a Federal 20-year moratorium which expired in 2012.