The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has written directly to a local government in northern Victoria over concerns that a planning approval will allow townhouses to be built in an area of Echuca inundated by Murray River flooding last year.
The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has also criticised the Campaspe Shire Council decision on the proposal, which it says is likely to result in danger to the life, health and safety of the occupants due to flooding on the site.
CEO Andrew Hall last week wrote to the mayor of the council in northern Victoria urging the local government to reconsider its decision to approve the construction of 16 townhouses.
“The Insurance Council of Australia has long advocated for changes to planning rules so no more homes are built in high-risk flood-prone locations and has urged Campaspe Shire Council to reconsider this decision,” ICA said in a statement provided to insuranceNEWS.com.au.
ICA says it has long called for councils to stop approving homes on floodplains, “and this sometimes includes direct advocacy to local governments”.
The North Central CMA and some residents had taken their case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), but the application was dismissed in July.
“North Central CMA is disappointed with the outcome of the VCAT practice day hearing, which determined that flooding concerns could not be raised in the review proceeding since, in the opinion of Campaspe Shire Council, the development satisfied flood risk considerations,” Floodplain Manager Camille White told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
“North Central CMA maintains its concern that the proposed development will put residents at risk from flooding, which it directly expressed to council when it recommended that the planning permit be refused.”
The authority says it will seek to strengthen planning controls to ensure flood risk is “appropriately and carefully considered” in all planning decisions.
In its VCAT application North Central CMA says the property is subject to relatively frequent flooding with about a 5% chance of being inundated in any one year, while “it should be noted that the effects of climate change are likely to result in more frequent and severe flood events”.
The declared 1% AEP flood level for the location is 95.7 metres AHD (Australian Height Datum), but the North Central CMA says the shire council is currently completing the Echuca Moama Flood Study and preliminary information indicates slightly higher flood levels at the location.
Campaspe Shire Council CEO Pauline Gordon said a planning permit was issued by the council, in its capacity as responsible authority, following the outcomes of the VCAT proceeding.
“The planning permit decision was made in full compliance with the Campaspe Planning Scheme which included reference to the Campaspe Local Floodplain Development Plan,” she told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “At this time council has no further comment on the matter.”