Building on flood plains: a long tradition

After our July 13 report on the Catchment Management Authority’s problems trying to prevent people building on flood plains at Echuca and Creswick, FOBIF member Geoff Hannon has alerted us to a document that shows this isn’t a recent problem. Governor Lachlan Macquarie tried repeatedly to discourage colonists from building in places which would certainly flood. In 1817 he decreed that a letter on the subject of disastrous floods on the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers be read in all churches in the colony of NSW. It reads, in part:

‘…Whilst it does not fall within the Reach of human Foresight or Precaution to be able to guard effectually against the baneful Recurrence of such awful Visitations, or to avoid being more or less involved therein, yet when the too fateful Experience of Years has shown the Sufferers the inevitable consequences of their wilful and wayward Habit of placing their Residences and Stock-yards within the Reach of the Floods (as if putting at Defiance that impetuous Element which it is not for man to contend with); and whilst it must still be had in Remembrance that many of the Deplorable Losses which have been sustained within the last few Years at least, might have been in great measure averted, had the settlers paid due consideration to their own Interests, and to the frequent Admonitions they had received, by removing their residences from within the Flood Marks to the Townships assigned for them on the High Lands, it must be confessed that the Compassion excited by their Misfortunes is mingled with sentiments of Astonishment and Surprize, that any People could be found so totally insensible to their true interests as the Settlers have in this Instance proved themselves…’

The complete text of this letter can be read on the website of the NSW Public Record office .

Meanwhile, the North Central CMA has called for public participation in its effort to map precise flood level marks. To see how to participate in this process, click here.

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