January 2 supercell storm main topic at meeting, councillors push for investigation

EERIE: This photo was taken from Hydrangea Avenue in Parkes of the storm supercell approaching the town on January 2. Photo: Dane Hendry
EERIE: This photo was taken from Hydrangea Avenue in Parkes of the storm supercell approaching the town on January 2. Photo: Dane Hendry

"We really need to do something about this now" - were the words of Parkes Shire councillor Bill Jayet on Tuesday.

Parkes' destructive supercell storm on January 2 was at the forefront of discussions at Parkes Shire Council's first meeting back for 2021.

The weather event was raised during the Mayoral Minute section of the meeting, as well as in the Questions and Matters of Urgency, with Cr Jayet submitting feedback and questions on the damaging flash floods that impacted a number of areas of the town, including the main street.

Cr Jayet's concerns mainly focused on the flooding that occurred in lower East Street and streets south of Bushmans Dam, mentioning the amount of reeds in Bushmans Dam and the waterway in PAC Park, and roundabouts as contributors to slowing the flow of the water.

But prior to this discussion, councillors also took the opportunity to have their say on the incident when Mayor Ken Keith OAM tabled his Mayoral Minute report at the meeting.

The recommendation put forward was for a special storm supercell report outlining the proposed rectification works to address major flooding areas to be returned to council, "as fast as we can" council's Infrastructure Director Andrew Francis said.

Cr Neil Westcott said the storm had put so much pressure on the town's infrastructure that had been built in a different time and era.

"We simply cannot allow our residents to endure these storms to the extent of the devastation we've seen over the last few years," he said.

"We owe it to our community to investigate it."

Cr Westcott said it will be a "massive investment" to look into the issue but "we no longer find this acceptable".

Fellow councillors agreed, with Cr Jayet saying council needs to start planning for the future now.

"[January 2's storm] was worse than that mini cyclone a few years ago that brought down the Dumesny Hardware wall," Cr Jayet said.

"We need to make this our number one focus."

Cr Jayet also spoke about feedback he'd received from businesses, who said what didn't help the situation were the cars of visitors driving up and down the streets "sending waves of water into their shopfronts".

"They need to take a bit of responsibility," he said.

Cr Pat Smith said she too had received a lot of feedback from residents, particularly those concerned with insurance.

She said it hadn't been all that long ago when council was last talking about the town's flooding problems.

"This (storms and flooding) isn't going to stop," she said.

Cr Alan Ward pushed for a report and asked when will it be available.

He said council needed to look into the worst affected areas and invest in them.

"If it means digging up the main street then so be it," he said.

In Cr Jayet's question tabled at Tuesday's meeting, he said he had been contacted by concerned residents on a range of issues regarding the flooding around town.

"One such issue that residents believe contributed to flooding in lower East Street and streets south of Bushman Dam are the amounts of reeds in both Bushman Dam and the water-way in PAC Park," he wrote in his question.

"Residents believe the thickness and height of these reeds is preventing floodwater from escaping quickly - they believe the reeds are causing the water to bank up and so spread the flooding surge in a wider torrent.

"The question has also been put to me as to whether council shouldn't look at widening and deepening the waterway at PAC Park.

"They too see the reeds/grasses as an issue in holding back and banking the water during massive storms.

"I note that Bushmans Dam had volumes of reeds removed from the dam several years ago but are now back thicker than ever."

Cr Jayet said residents have also questioned the roundabouts at the intersections of Currajong and Bushman streets, and Clarinda and Bushman streets.

"[They say] the raised nature of these roundabouts has impacted hugely on the flow of water during massive storms," he wrote.

Council's Infrastructure Director Andrew Francis provided a response to Cr Jayet's questions, which was tabled in the meeting's business paper and discussed at the meeting.

Mr Francis said council was inundated with calls with feedback from the community after the storm and that they are collecting information and visual material for a database.

"We will be revisiting our town stormwater models, to investigate the mitigants for higher intensity storms, which we have experienced over the past few years," he said.

"We are looking at upgrading a lot of our underground networks."

The following is Mr Francis' response to Cr Jayet's questions.

Reeds

"Thick reeds in waterways will slow water and potentially cause a backwater effect. Whether this is detrimental or beneficial depends on the circumstances," Mr Francis wrote.

"Many stormwater management strategies rely on slowing stormwater, for example detention basins such as Bushmans Dam.

"In other circumstances quick removal of stormwater is the aim, such as concrete channels, and potentially PAC park. Downstream impacts of increasing stormwater flow is always the issue."

But Mr Francis said it was important to consider the role of reeds in environmental systems.

"Reeds do play an important role in stormwater treatment and erosion control. Reeds help hold soils and sediments together, significantly reduce erosion impacts and further sedimentation downstream," he said.

"The reeds also filter out pollutants and nutrients from stormwater, providing effective treatment before stormwater enters Goobang Creek.

"[And] reeds provide an aesthetic appeal, providing lush green foliage for residents and visitors to look at rather than dirty brown stormwater, especially at Bushmans Dam. And the amount of habitat these reeds provide in our urban setting for native fauna is incredibly important for our local wildlife and the recreational appeal of these sites.

"Notwithstanding the above, some large sections of reeds could be removed from PAC Park immediately upstream of East Street.

"The 'island' upstream of the weir, and the reeds growing thereon, could be removed/dredged to increase capacity in the area; reeds fringing this section of the channel/wetland should be kept for habitat, erosion control and stormwater filtering.

"We are in the process of investigating stormwater mitigation at the north eastern side of town with the aim of detaining stormwater."

Roundabouts

"The subject roundabouts have been in place for nearly two decades. They will certainly have an impact on the flow of stormwater and may play a role in directing floodwater which is under investigation," Mr Francis continued.

"They are however likely to be just one symptom of flooding and not the cause.

"Main street flooding is a major issue and is likely to require a number of projects to address it fully.

"A report will be provided back to council on this specific issue."

Parkes Shire Council will include its response to Cr Jayet's concerns in its supercell report.

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