In February 2011, hundreds of properties in Glen Eira were flooded. Council’s response was a report three months later which concentrated on either laying the blame elsewhere (ie Melbourne Water, developers and residents), or patting itself on the back for its ‘emergency response’. Promises were made, such as – Council officers are currently investigating increasing Council’s drainage maintenance resources and will report on this in due course. (Minutes of 28th June 2011). Needless to say, such a report has never seen the light of day in three and a half years!

Compounding the problem of flooding in Glen Eira is the fact that it is now 9 years at least since the introduction of the Special Building Overlay into the Planning Scheme. Such overlays are meant to safeguard against the risk of flooding by mandating floor level heights. Past estimates have placed properties at risk of flooding in Glen Eira as well over 12,000. With rapid development going on in the municipality, coupled with the increase of impermeable surfaces that such development brings, it surely is time to reassess the entire local drainage system and to evaluate whether any additional sites are now also deemed to be at flood risk.

Other councils have been proactive on this issue – Darebin, Greater Geelong and Port Phillip are the current examples. Port Phillip, which bears the brunt of much water flowing down from Glen Eira’s territory, resolved at its last council meeting to seek an amendment. The amendment follows several years of joint study with Melbourne Water and intends to clearly differentiate between Melbourne Water drains and local council drains. We’ve uploaded the full officer report HERE, but included below some important extracts –

Commencing a planning scheme amendment to update the SBO immediately is recommended. Following the SBO Review, it is now known that the current SBO does not accurately reflect all properties at risk of overland flooding. Council has a responsibility to keep the planning scheme up to date, and the SBO provides an important and transparent statutory mechanism for indicating properties that are subject to inundation in a severe storm event

Modification of the SBO boundaries on planning scheme maps to reflect the revised flood shape agreed by Melbourne Water and Council (refer maps at Attachment 4). This would:

  • Include approximately 10,200 new properties which have now been identified as being subject to inundation.
  • Remove approximately 500 properties from the SBO which are no longer identified as being subject to inundation.
  • Retain the SBO over approximately 17,300 properties which remain subject to inundation. (Note: The extent of the SBO over these properties may be altered.)

Port Phillip has also included maps of the new sites in its proposed amendment. We find it extremely difficult to accept that potential flooding risk as determined by Port Phillip ‘conveniently’ stops at the border with Glen Eira. If many of the streets running off Hotham on the Port Phillip side are now deemed to require an SBO, then surely many of the properties less then 20 metres away on the Glen Eira side of the street could also be under threat. The questions that need to be asked regarding these new studies are:

  • If ‘Council has a responsibility to keep the planning scheme up to date’, then what has Glen Eira done in the past decade or so in relation to its SBO?
  • Why has Council been so reticent in providing any information on its flood risks and measures taken to improve and extend local drainage systems – especially after its ‘promise’ of 2011.
  • The current buzz word for councillors is ‘capacity’. How is this quantified, evaluated, and acted upon?
  • What impact is all this new development having on Glen Eira’s drainage systems and the water table? Does Council even know?
  • And the most important question for residents is – how much longer will ratepayers continue to subsidise developers given that Glen Eira has abandoned its development contributions levy scheme?

Finally, readers may also find the Darebin proposed amendment of interest. Uploaded HERE.