Last chance to make flood submissions

Last chance to make flood submissions
Rhonda Dredge

There’s a timeless quality to the patch of riverbank down near the old stock bridge in Kensington but experts are warning residents not to be complacent.

Nicole Kowalczyk has prepared a submission for the Melbourne Water review into last year’s disastrous flood.

She’s blaming overdevelopment of flood plains for the surge and is keen to “let rivers be rivers.”

As an ecologist and Maribyrnong Officer for the Maribyrnong River and Waterways Association, she’s opposed to flood walls and extensions to existing buildings.

She says that those who bought into one of the affected areas, the apartment block at Riverside Place south of the old stock bridge, probably had no idea of the flood risk.

On October 14 last year the Maribyrnong burst its banks and a surge of muddy water engulfed the building, writing off an estimated 100 cars in the basement, after destroying homes further up the river.

The 2022 event was a 50-year flood, Ms Kowalczyk said, and authorities predicted it would be similar to the one in 1974.

“If you look at aerial footage the water levels are extremely similar,” she said, “so were the flow rates and the rainfall. You can directly compare the water’s distribution.”

Since the 1974 flood, the increase in impervious surfaces and development created massive flash flooding and a stormwater surge that was twice as high as expected.

Riverside Place is just a few hundred metres south of the controversial flood wall built at Flemington Racecourse in 2007. The water rushed up Hobsons Rd, then up Bateman St, leaving a high-water mark on the wall of the apartment block of about one metre.


“If it was a 100-year flood the first floor would have been wiped out,” Ms Kowalczyk said. “It’s in a flood risk zone. You assume planners have done their homework if you buy a unit.”


Ms Kowalczyk is encouraging those affected to make submissions to the Maribyrnong River Flood Event Independent Review which closes on March 17.

In her submission on behalf of the Maribyrnong and Waterways Association, she says that early warning systems could be improved.

“Two days before there was a general warning. It was downgraded the day before. At 8.24pm on October 13 a warning was issued that it would have a moderate peak. At 2.25am an emergency flood warning was sent by text. A peak of 2.9 metres was expected. It reached 4.18 metres.”

She said the warning system was imperfect and that many residents missed out on the text. Others were not “flood literate” enough to heed the warnings.

“I want Melbourne Water to err on the side of caution and issue a moderate warning and that people have more notice.”

She said they need to know that if it’s been raining for a week, the banks will overflow. “We should have rules of thumb. We should be aware of the risks. What are the signs? Where can they find more information?” What do they do in an emergency?” •

For more information regarding the Melbourne Water review, click here.

Locals can also make a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the floods by clicking here.


Caption: Maribyrnong officer Nicole Kowalczyk outside Riverside Place in Kensington.

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