Council's Role in Flood Management

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March 2018 update

Low Lying Areas - Phase 1 - Sea & Groundwater Monitoring

On 25 July 2017 Council adopted a strategic position paper (the Paper) to protect the low lying areas from future flood risks associated with climate change.  The Paper includes a list of actions (phase 1 -6) that are triggered if increments of sea level rise are recorded. Phase 1 was triggered upon adoption of the  Paper and requires sea and groundwater level monitoring.

In relation to sea levels, Council has worked with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to establish a benchmark and methodology for the measurement of mean sea level rise. The Paper has set the benchmark based on mean sea level at time of its adoption.

Council and OEH have since investigated the behaviour of sea levels. OEH has recommended using the Fort Denison tide gauge in Sydney for the monitoring because, not only is this the longest publicly available record in the southern hemisphere, but more importantly the site holds data of the highest accuracy in NSW. There is not reported to be any difference in sea level rise between Sydney and Newcastle.

When analysing the data from 1990 to 2017 it was found that the mean sea level has risen by approximately 3cm or 0.032m. This indicates sea levels are rising slowly, and it indicates that there is at least 10 to 25 years until the 0.1m trigger (Phase 2) is reached. Phase 2 requires installation of improved flood gates and drainage outlets, high powered pumps, and the design of the levee for construction in Phase 3 (0.2m sea level rise).

In relation to groundwater, wells have been installed in March 2018 and a long term groundwater monitoring program will commence to better understand groundwater behaviour in the study area.

 View the Strategic Position Paper for Low Lying Areas (pdf)
 View the Frequently Asked Questions (pdf)

Before the event

Council's role is to investigate the risk of flooding and to prepare for future floods through land use planning, development control and flood mitigation works.  It is not possible to predict when, where, or how big the next flood will be. However, we can estimate the likelihood of different sizes of floods and their consequences so we can plan ahead.

Council is working on solutions to manage flooding with grant assistance from the government to implement actions adopted in our Flood Management Plans. Council's Flood Risk Management Committee is developing strategies during regular meetings.

During the event

The State Emergency Service (SES) is the lead emergency management agency during floods.

Council's role during a flood is to assist emergency management departments such as SES, Rural Fire Service and NSW Police.

After the event

Council leads the clean-up tasks after a flood event and coordinates repairs to damaged public assets such as roads, parks, trees and drainage. Council also applies for funding from the government to cover public asset damages.

What Council is doing to reduce flood risk

A number of actions were recommended in the Floodplain Risk Management Plans adopted by Council for Newcastle City Wide and Wallsend Commercial Area. Implementation of the recommendations has been an ongoing process.  The underlying fact for Newcastle is that urban development on the floodplain has been undertaken since European settlement. Once development has occurred in a location and a particular use of land is established it is difficult and expensive to change or move those uses to reclaim the floodplain.

This means that urban land uses in the floodplain is likely to stay and the elimination of all flood risk is practically impossible. However there are measures, such as planning controls, that can be applied to reduce flood risk in the long term as redevelopment takes place. At the end of the day there are no easy solutions and the most effective means of reducing risk is to apply a range of measures such as flood education, planning controls, emergency management, on-site detention and drainage improvements.

Specific Implementation Actions

Flash Flood Alert Service
Wallsend Commercial Area FRMP Implementation Study
Morgan Selwyn Street Floodway
City Wide Flood Signage Review
Flood Education Campaign