Council advised against flood group exit

Adelaide Plains Council believes ratepayers are not being satisfactorily served by the Gawler River Floodplain Management Authority (GRFMA) and are continuing with their push to withdraw, despite independent advice to the contrary.
Consultant, David Hope, addressed elected members regarding his prudential assessment of withdrawing from the GRFMA at the recent ordinary council meeting, Monday September 18.
Despite a lengthy and detailed presentation by Mr Hope, and with APC CEO James Miller himself strongly recommending council resolve not to pursue the withdrawal from the GRFMA, councillors maintained their position that staying with the authority was not in the best interests of ratepayers.
The controversy surrounding APC’s decision to withdraw from the GRFMA continues to plague the council, who moved the motion to withdraw, without notice, in May of this year.
Councillors are adamant the charter of the authority must be reviewed and the percentages of cost distribution revisited before any negotiation to remain within the organisation is discussed.
Elected members remain steadfast in their resolve and will weather the storm of negative publicity until their concerns have been properly addressed.
Mr Hope prepared his report for APC’s Audit Committee, with the committee subsequently recommending council to remain on the GRFMA as one of the six constituent councils comprising the regional subsidiary.
The report identified a number of risks APC would be exposed to if they continued with the process of withdrawing from the authority.
“APC does not have a risk management plan in relation to flooding,” Mr Hope explained.
“There will be avoidable flood damage with a potential for loss of life.”
Included in his risk assessment was the possibility of the GRFMA ceasing to exist as an entity, impacting on flood mitigation works already undertaken, and a future inability to collective negotiate for government funding.
“While you are in the GRFMA you have a voice on it, when you withdraw you have no voice,” he said.
As well as the inability to influence future flood mitigation works upstream, Mr Hope pointed out the timing of the motion to withdraw couldn’t be worse with the planned investment in the Northern Foodbowl at a critical stage, and the reputation of the APC for working collaboratively would also be at serious risk.
“We’re talking a billion dollars worth of investment,” he said.
“You have already suffered some reputational risk for what you have so far done.
“It’s a serious risk with the other constituent councils and the local government community at large, and it will be a serious risk with your community if you fail your community in the area of protection from flood risks and damages.”
In relation to financing a percentage of future flood mitigation works, primarily that of the proposed $27-$30 million Northern Floodway project, Mr Hope stated bluntly “you have the capacity to pay”.
Councillors were invited to engage in discussion with Mr Hope about his recommendations, which resulted in a tense exchange between him and elected members.
A discerning Cr Keen raised the issue of urban development in the Adelaide Hills, with a projected increase in housing, putting pressure on the river, and diverting from its natural course impacting on Playford and Adelaide Plains Councils.
“And we are expected to still pay 28.91 per cent for the privilege of collecting the extra water which is now being put into the river,” Cr Keen said.
“We want it (the charter) to be relooked at, we want to have a look at what pressure is going on up the river with the increase of water during these flooding events, and we want it taken off our percent, because they’re putting the extra water in the river.”
Mr Hope emphasised the problem was not the fault of the other constituent councils.
“The water is falling out of the sky,” he replied.
“There is no point asking me about the hydrology because I don’t know anything about the hydrology.”
Cr Strudwicke then reiterated APC’s main concern.
“In your investigations what is the likelihood of us investigating the cost distributions, as that is one of the biggest objections I have of the project,” he said.
“I support the GRFMA, but the project that they are putting forward is not actually going to benefit us.
“It’s to benefit those areas that were flooded in Playford, in the last flood.”
Mr Hope replied, “I can’t comment on how big a benefit that is to you.”
Mr Miller voiced support for the councillors on reviewing the charter and stressed the need to “put all of our energies and all of our eggs in the basket of reviewing the charter”.
“I think if we say we are not pulling out we haven’t got any eggs to put into our basket, we’ve thrown all our chips away,” Cr Keen offered.
“We need to keep that on the books until we’ve had a review.”
Cr Keen moved a formal motion for the matter to lay on the table until such time that the charter has been reviewed.
The recommendation by the audit committee to remain part of the GRFMA was not endorsed by the elected members, prompting the CEO to clarify his position, ie continuing the appropriate procedures to withdraw from the authority, while at the same time attempting to gain a review of the charter.

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