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“Let it flood”

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Community members have been left flabbergasted and frustrated at government agencies who threatened prosecution over repairing flood banks which have protected local properties throughout previous high rivers.

Community members were told “expect to be flooded if you live on a floodplain” by the same authority that wants to build a flood bank to deliver environmental water to artificially flood the bush.

Despite years of advocacy over the damage to the Murray River under current water management by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and recent meetings with five authorities, nothing has been done to prevent the current situation.

Last week, Koondrook resident, Les Bray, had firsthand experience of the continual inaction.

“I’d checked the bank in the morning,” Les said.

“We’d had a few spots that were giving us trouble.

“I came out after lunch and there was water right up to our house yard.”

Community members sprang into action to protect the Bray’s house and the hay stores on the property. The Victorian SES joined in the efforts, filling sandbags. Local dairy farmer, Skeeta Verhey, was touched with the community response when a call for help went out.

“People just come and help, it’s a strength of our community,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the community and how we protect what we do.”

Skeeta has been disappointed with the lack of action from those who are meant to manage the river. “We have no protection with high rivers and the erosion of our banks, there’s simply no maintenance being done on the waterways.

“Higher flows delivering water down south and all these other KPIs they’ve got within different government levels to deliver water to certain people or certain environmental outcomes, but they’ve neglected the river.”

Skeeta believes that communities need to take charge instead of being ruled by city-based bureaucracy.

“We just have to take ownership of our communities and part of that means we just gotta get in and get things done. Communities understand the local living space and how we live and what we want to see happen. When we’re not engaged to make decisions or protect what’s ours, the anxiety level rises and you feel threatened. We need to be making the decisions at ground level, not making decisions by people who don’t live with the day-to-day realities.”

An angry Peter Walsh, Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, has condemned the failure of DELWP and Parks Victoria to be a proactive partner for river communities in the face of “very real threats of flooding.”

Mr Walsh says both groups need to “climb down from their ivory towers at 8 Nicholson St in Melbourne” and actually do their jobs for a change.

He says for departments meant to have their fingers on the pulse of the state’s physical wellbeing, they have both, once again, confirmed “they have no comprehension of the real world.”

“They certainly have no comprehension of, and you have to believe, don’t seem to care about, the devastation flooding can have – and if it is let loose in communities such as Koondrook-Barham because neither department understands the importance of levee banks, then homes and businesses and the people who live in them, work in them and own them will be the ones paying the price,” Mr Walsh added.

“It’s not as if no-one in DELWP and Parks has ever seen a flood. 2010-11 is not that long ago and the devastation and heartbreak that caused lingers even today,” he says.

“Yet, these bureaucrats sit in their climate-controlled, publicly-funded palaces in Melbourne and tell locals, many of whom have been in their communities for generations, they know what’s best for them.

“That DELWP and Parks have nothing to offer but delay, disdain and potentially disaster, is consistent with the overall approach of the Andrews Labor Government’s total lack of support for regional and rural Victoria.”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 13 October 20222

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 13 October 2022.

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