Mackellar MP Jason Falinski has called Council’s recent decision on the Wakehurst Parkway a cop out.Mr Falinski was responding to Council’s decision to place the Wakehurst Parkway Flood Mitigation Study on public exhibition.
“They will have spent more money on reports than the solution by the time this is over. Given that this has been talked about for ten years, what’s left to study?” said Mr Falinski.
Council voted unanimously to place the Wakehurst Parkway Flood Mitigation Study on public exhibition at last Tuesday night’s Council meeting (23 March).
Council has been given over $18m by the NSW Government to mitigate the flooding closures of the Wakehurst Parkway during heavy rains. Residents of Pittwater have raised the closures as a safety risk for accessing the Northern Beaches Hospital.
During last week’s intense storm, the Wakehurst Parkway was closed for around four days due to flooding, and on the morning of Monday, 22 March, the traffic via alternate routes was brought to a near standstill. Mona Vale Road had signalling issues at the intersection of Powderworks Road for more than a day, and a fatal accident at Terrey Hills, while Pittwater Road was choked from Narrabeen to Dee Why until around 11.00am.
According to a NSW Government source, the additional funding provided to Council in this year’s budget is sufficient for the most comprehensive of the options to reduce flooding to be undertaken.
The study identified three places that required flood mitigation works:
- Near the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation
- Near the junction with Oxford Falls Road
- The road section between those two areas known as ‘The Bends’
The most significant of the works is proposed for The Bends, with seven options presented from a new levee (minimal benefit) to comprehensive works to improve levees, remove sediment and install under road drainage culverts (significant benefit). The key issue raised is the amount of impact to the nearby environment as a result of the works.
Council voted last Tuesday to seek public feedback on the options and has now indicated it will only take up the funding under a number of conditions, including community support for the project, according to Mayor Michael Regan.
“This a major state-managed arterial road which is closed by flooding approximately six times a year, creating a huge inconvenience for many motorists, which is why we lobbied the State Government for funding for the study and potential works.
“However, the study confirms there are no easy or quick fixes for this issue. The road runs through the middle of a sensitive, rich ecosystem supporting an array of threatened plants and animal species, and there are no options that fix the wider flooding problem without environmental impacts.
“We are right at the beginning of the process, commissioning this feasibility study was the first step in order to get a sense of the options available. We have a lot more work to do to make sure we have a full and extensive picture of what flood mitigation measures will mean for the sensitive environment.
“In the meantime, it’s important the community has an opportunity to have a look at the options documented in the Study and give their initial feedback for us and the State Government to consider. We’ll only proceed with options if we have general community support. As this is a significant project, this will be the first of a number of times the community will be asked for input,” said Mayor Regan.
Although the vote in support of public exhibition was unanimous, a number of the councillors expressed reservations about the problem remaining unresolved.
Councillor Penny Philpott said the Wakehurst Parkway was a problem and while the environment was important, the area was full of invasive flora.
“Somebody suggested to me we bring in a bridge that takes us above the road. I think it should be looked at again. I think all aspects should be looked at because it’s a major problem.
“The environment is a problem although as I drive down there I only really see weeds. Maybe by putting in the road changes we’ll fix the weed problem,” said Cr Philpott.
Councillor Alex McTaggart said that Council had been given an opportunity with the funding to fix the road corridor and should take advantage of it.
“The community has been calling for Wakehurst Parkway to be flood proofed for 20 years. It’s a lay down misre that when it goes out on public exhibition people are going to say get on with it.
“We want to be able to be in control of the process so I think it’s a good thing. Whether $13.1m is enough money, probably not, but once the process starts it’s a state road, we just tell them to keep paying for it,” said Cr McTaggart.
Councillor David Walton supported the community consultation but said that Council then needed to get started on delivering a solution.
“We’re going out for community consultation but we need to get on with this. Council have already asked for an extension to the timeframe to complete the upgrade to reduce the flooding.
“We’re very interested in hearing what the community have got to say with our plan, but after community consultation I think it should be sped up, not slowed down, which Council want to do.
“They are saying it’s because the grant money took too long, but we had already been provided millions of dollars of grant money. They want to extend it out 14 months from the original plan, which would start the upgrade in 2023/24,” said Cr Walton.
Pittwater MP and Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said that flood mitigation works along Wakehurst Parkway are a step closer, and urged people to have their say.
“The NSW Government has partnered with Northern Beaches Council to deliver this project, with the NSW Government allocating more than $18m.
“The project commenced in 2017 with an initial $5m allocation by the NSW Government for an extensive flood and environmental study which was completed in 2019. This was followed by an additional allocation of $13.1 m in November 2020 to enable the full project to be implemented.
“The work will be considerable, and includes under road culverts and drainage, creek realignment, sediment removal and new levees. The Parkway’s bushland and ecological communities required detailed consideration as part of the project preparation, and the flood mitigation works have been designed to ensure the plan is effective whilst limiting environmental impacts as much as possible,” said Minister Stokes.
Council have not yet placed the plan on public exhibition. It will be made available on the Council Your Say website soon. In the meantime, the Wakehurst Parkway Flood Mitigation Study (file link) was made available with the agenda of the Council meeting last Tuesday.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Rob Stokes MP
Video: Northern Beaches Advocate
Our friends at Manly Observer have also written a good article about this issue and have explained the options and environmental concerns. We recommend the read if you are interested in the issue.