Council and state government 'must be held accountable' if flooding persists: councillor

Government officials will have “blood on their hands” if catastrophic flooding drowns the region in years to come, a Wagga councillor has claimed. 

Alleged mismanagement of the region’s dams and countless delays to the long-awaited levee bank upgrade have been blamed for the city’s vulnerability to flooding events. 

Councillor and former flood risk management committee chairman Paul Funnell said years of laziness had left Wagga on the precipice of a natural disaster. 

He said both council and the government had neglected to repair a gaping hole in the city’s flood defences. 

“We’ve got 1.75 million megalitres of water in the dams and yet they’re only distributing just over half for irrigation,” he said. 

“Because of the water sharing plan that’s in place, you’ve got no air space in the dam because all of this remaining water is being held for environmental purposes.

“More water should be allocated for irrigation so we aren’t sitting on a near-full capacity dam.

“The problem is we don’t have a state or federal member that will stand up and say that it is wrong.”

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) increased its irrigation allocation from 54 per cent to 61 per cent last Thursday.

“It has been a wet winter and spring, meaning that there has been very little irrigation demand this year,” a DPI spokesperson said. 

“As the warmer weather arrives and irrigation water delivery makes airspace in storage for the capture of more inflows, allocations are likely to rise further.”

Jackie Duck, who spent five years rebuilding her mother’s North Wagga home after it was destroyed in the 2012 floods, fears council’s “complacency” could spell disaster for her family. 

“Our lives were devastated and it worries me gravely that we still aren’t safe,” she said. 

“By the time they finally complete the levee bank upgrade, another flood will probably have hit and we’ll have nothing left.” 

“This has been going on for years and we’ve gotten nowhere.”

She claimed Wagga City Council spent more than seven years overseeing levee bank studies, discussions, reports and consultations for further upgrades. 

Council denied a request for interview and instead provided a statement: “There is a detailed plan in place which is running on time and budget and meeting all commitments.”

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