SES admits housing more people on floodplain is dangerous

SES admits housing more people on floodplain is dangerous

Peter Cinque from the State Emergency Services (SES) admitted in an upper house inquiry yesterday that he believes the Government’s plan to house an additional 134,000 people[1] on the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain would dramatically increase risk to life.

The inquiry is examining a bill on the proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall.

When asked about whether the SES would be ‘comfortable’ with an additional 134,000 on the floodplain, Mr Cinque said: “it would be our preference as far as possible to not evacuate people as it is a huge obstruction to the community and to the economy...we’d
rather not see more people exposed to risk.”

Most concerningly, the SES revealed that housing more people in flood-prone areas would make successful evacuation of residents difficult, with Mr Cinque saying: “as the evacuation problem increases, the complexity will increase and will be harder to execute.”

The inquiry also revealed that the NSW Government is unwilling to release the cost benefit analysis behind its decision to raise Warragamba Dam wall, doubling down on keeping secret reports which informed the Hawkesbury-Nepean Flood Management Strategy.

Quotes attributable to Harry Burkitt of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness:

“The NSW Government have two contradictory policies. In one breath they say they want to save lives on the floodplain, and in the next they plan to allow an additional 134,000 people to be housed on the very same floodplain.

“The NSW Government has a choice to make, keeping cosy with its developer mates or saving lives. Which will it be?”

Quotes attributable to Dr Margaret Moussa of Western Sydney University:

“From the limited government documents available informing the Warragamba Dam raising it appears the justification for the proposal does not comply with the basic procedures required of a cost benefit analysis.”

“The documents fall short in three key areas. They fail to quantify the likely impacts of future floodplain development, are inconsistent in the methods used to analyse different options, and fail to consider alternative flood management solutions put forward by leading flood and water experts.”

“If the government thinks raising Warragamba Dam stacks up economically, why do they not release the very reports that informed their cost benefit analysis in the first place?”

Dr Moussa’s submission to the inquiry can be found here. Assoc. Prof Jamie Pittock’s report on alternative options for flood-risk management can be found here.

Media contact:

Harry Burkitt
0490 010 909
[email protected]

[1] Infrastructure NSW, January 2017, Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy.
Available online: