Put yourself in their shoes!

Put yourself in their shoes!
Simon Harvey

These shoes are those of hundreds of Kensington Banks residents feeling disillusioned and angry after receiving an updated map of flood modelling of the Maribyrnong River, which puts their homes at a higher risk of flooding from a one-in-100-year event.

That’s a rare event, but the updated map has significant implications for both the cost of insuring their homes (higher) and the value of their homes (lower). Put yourself in their shoes; wouldn’t you be upset!?

All locals know about the peaceful ambience of Kensington Banks, its superb landscaping designed around the old stock route. A variety of lower-rise residences sit within significant open space and are surrounded by a magical mix of old and new planting, interlaced with pedestrian-friendly connections.

Imagine if you had bought into “The Banks” – maybe 20 to 30 years ago – with the assurance that, despite being on a flood plain, your property was protected by significant flood mitigation. Wouldn’t you be gutted if out of the blue you were landed with an “assessment” that could add thousands to your insurance bill and torpedo the value of your home?

Many residents feel deceived, or that they have not been given the full picture by the messenger of this bad news, Melbourne Water. It does seem that this government-owned body, responsible for assessing and communicating flood risk, had been somewhat “asleep at the wheel” in terms of adequately communicating the new profile of risk following the 2022 floods.

Perhaps the creeping crisis of climate change has not quite seeped through to sections of government with a growing responsibility to assess and forewarn.

Local Greens MP Ellen Sandell recently called a meeting at the Town Hall on June 4 for residents to voice their concerns and talk about actions. While I was personally not able attend the meeting, I have heard from others that, while it was well attended, they came away somewhat confused and disheartened about any path to resolution, which is not surprising given the complex nature of any “solution” or mitigation plan.

To her credit Ms Sandell has since circulated a “What Can You Do?” flyer, which is available from her office.

Clearly the threat from floods, and the challenge to mitigate them, are not confined to “somewhere else”. All properties near flood plains are at risk. It is hardly worth mentioning that any potential solution or mitigation will not be perfect for all parties at risk.

An international reflection

Perhaps we can spare a thought for other communities where they are not just losing value in their homes but losing their actual homes.

I’m thinking of the tragedy unfolding for those in Papua New Guinea where homes and families have been destroyed by a landslide. I’m thinking of the ongoing tragedy in Gaza where Palestinian homes and families are being obliterated, similarly for the people of Ukraine.

And what about the loss of homes and life in many African communities, which seldom appear on western media radar? People elsewhere overtaken by unimaginable loss and trauma. One could say that at least they are spared the vulgar capitalist irony of insurance companies rubbing their hands in glee.

Personal statement

I do not live in Kensington Banks, so I’m less well informed. Also, since the present “suspension” of Kensington Association activity (which I hope is temporary) I feel my ability to write with “authority” is diminished.

Another part of me is thinking … perhaps this flood-map shock is a cause around which the Kensington Association can “unsuspend” and revive. •


Simon Harvey - Immediate past chairperson of (and spokesperson for) The Kensington Association

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