In a landmark decision in December 2015, the Central Highlands Regional Council took a new approach to speed up its decision making process about whether or not to build levees in Emerald.
‘We can get a fairly accurate picture of the costs involved with building the potential levee alignment in Emerald without going to full design. While the feasibility study of 2014 gave us reasonable indicative costs as a starting point, we still need a comprehensive view of the all the costs involved with building levees,’ said Central Highlands Regional Council CEO, Scott Mason.
Instead of going to full design, which could take up to two years, the council chose to fast track preliminary works.
The councillors agreed that this option met the staged procurement criteria adopted in June; would save money up until a final decision is made; would reduce the time affected property owners are in ‘limbo’; and would enable discussions with all levels of government for funding opportunities to be bought forward by up to 18 months.
‘The proof-of-concept will provide the incoming council with enough detailed information to make a decision in June to either seek funding or withdraw levees as a flood mitigation option in June,’ he said.
Surveying, carried out by Cardno, and an ecological study, carried out by CO2, of the proposed alignment is currently being carried out across a number of sites. A fact sheet about this work is available on the council’s website.
Landholders that could be directly affected by the proposed levee alignment were also invited to have their homes comprehensively valued by URBIS, and independent valuer. ‘It provides a snapshot of the market as it is right now,’ explained Mr Mason. Approximately a dozen landholders chose to participate in the voluntary process, which cost them nothing.
The valuation process will also identify ‘disturbance’, or compensation costs that may be applicable to homeowners should the levee proceed.
In the meantime, the council is also progressing non-levee options for flood risk management. Information about these projects, such as river clearing and evacuation routes, will be released this month.