Planning expert calls for review of flood strategy after council admits to 'irregularities' in document

WATERED DOWN: A local planning expert believes council must serious review their flood strategies. It follows a number of irregularities in the documents on public display.
WATERED DOWN: A local planning expert believes council must serious review their flood strategies. It follows a number of irregularities in the documents on public display.

Concerns over Wagga’s floodplain strategies have deepened after council admitted there were minor errors in their draft risk management study and plan.

It follows a string of community leaders calling for council to extend the plan’s public display period.

The Daily Advertiser last week contacted commercial operations director Caroline Angel for comment after identifying financial irregularities in the draft study.

Given more than two days to respond, council finally confirmed they had been in discussions with an independent consultant, WMA Water, and had indeed found an “irregularity between the figures”.

Ms Angel said the errors were “a minor revision to the overall costing”.

“The costings in the draft revised Floodplain Risk Management Study are high level estimates in line with recently completed projects and standard industry pricing for the purpose of determining the financial viability of the option,” she said.

Ms Angel added the two irregularities were found in options already deemed to be unsafe and not financially viable.

Council also advised the total project cost exceeded $190,000 and would likely exceed its initial budget by more than $20,000.

Ms Angel attributed this excess to additional workshops between WMA Water and councillors, council staff and the Floodplain Risk Management Advisory Committee as well as community engagement sessions.

“The projected total cost of the project is $191,071, which has been majority funded by a $119,020.67 grant from the Office of Environment and Heritage,” Ms Angel added.

Independent town planning expert Susan Dickerson, however, remains unconvinced by the plan’s viability.

“Given the complexities of the draft plan, it is clear that it has not endured a rigorous review by suitably qualified persons to ensure that the document is correct but also that the end result of the implementation is to the communities benefit,” she said.

Ms Dickerson was critical of the project’s budget, labelling it “an expensive … piece meal exercise”, and recommended council enlist the services of a suitably qualified hydraulics engineer, given the proposal’s reliance on hydraulics.

“Given how complex it is, council should be extending the 28-day review period and bringing on a strategic planning consultant to detail the ground truth of implementation of this report,” she said.