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Communication break-downs mar Lower Murray flood recovery
South Australian authorities responding to the River Murray flood clean-up still have a lot to learn, it has been suggested at a public meeting in Murray Bridge.
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Authorities will need to find better ways of communicating with Murraylands residents as the flood recovery continues throughout 2023.
Recovery coordinator Alex Zimmerman admitted as much at a public meeting in Murray Bridge on Thursday night.
Only a handful of flood-affected property owners were among the 30 or so people who attended the meeting, which had been announced publicly just two days in advance.
Likewise, the state government did not make any conspicuous announcement about the closure of the flood relief centre in Murray Bridge a fortnight ago, or the opening of a relief centre at 28 Bridge Street on March 1, aside from an SA Housing Authority Facebook post.
That was emblematic of a problem facing the state government, Mr Zimmerman suggested.
“Obviously there’s a little bit more advertising to be had here,” he said.
“We’ll endeavour to make sure that it’s really clear, that people know, that that service is available.”
For another example, Green Industries SA’s Ian Overton said only half of the estimated 3000 property owners affected by flooding had yet applied for the government’s help to clean up.
“I have $60 million to support you,” he told the meeting.
“I’ve got money, I’ve got resources … whether you’re insured or not insured.
“What I want you to do is register if you have an impacted property.”
There were ways in which the government was starting to listen to communities: former PIRSA executive Scott Ashby had been appointed to meet with floodplain irrigators, and a community sub-committee would be established to manage the de-watering effort.
But Murray Bridge property owner Kathryn Rothe said more could have been done to protect riverfront properties if authorities had been willing to listen to local people.
“I know everyone is trying to help a lot, but I think there has got to be a little bit more communication (with) the people that are actually on the ground,” she said.
“Farmers have got a lot of advice, a lot of help, a lot of ideas.
“We’ve lowered down our levee bank so the water has run out naturally … that will save the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in the end.
“There are a lot of ideas out there; we need to get closer, or get more people on the ground ground-truthing.”
How is the flood recovery going, anyway?
Six irrigated floodplains had begun to have water pumped off them by Thursday, Primary Industries and Regions SA’s Tarsha McGregor said:
Baseby, south of Mannum
Long Island, at Murray Bridge
McFarlane, at Wellington East
About 190 properties in Murray Bridge which had been disconnected because of the floods remained without power on Thursday night, SA Power Networks’ Paul Erwin said.
Eighty-seven had been reconnected, and 132 would be ready to go as soon as their owners could get an electrician in to certify that they were safe.
A transformer at Sturt Reserve was due to be replaced last Friday, restoring power for more customers.
Council CEO Michael Sedgman said 12 riverfront reserves had been closed around the Murray Bridge district due to flooding; some of those reopened on Friday.
Of the 58 kilometres of roads which had been closed across the district, he expected Thiele Road, Avoca Dell Drive, Long Flat Road, North and South Bokara Roads and Toora Road to open by the end of this week, with some restrictions.
The three main riverboats which operated out of Murray Bridge – the Proud Mary, Captain Proud and Murray Princess – were either back up and running or would resume cruising during the next week.
Almost all public wastewater disposal stations for houseboats remained closed, the state Department for Environment and Water’s Birgitte Sorensen said.
Those at Walker Flat and Mannum would reopen in April, but there was no timeline for the Murray Bridge one yet.
Flood recovery will continue throughout 2023
One snippet of good news from the meeting was that no further flooding was expected during winter.
Ms Sorensen said floodwaters on their way down from the Darling River would flatten out as they came down the Murray, rather than causing a second peak.
Still, Mr Zimmerman made it clear that the flood recovery would take the rest of the year, and would not be easy for people who had lost a lot.
He promised that he and the government agencies working on the recovery would give “200 per cent” of their effort.
District officer Chris Shaw urged more locals to volunteer with the State Emergency Service to help fatigued crews keep going.
Get help: Visit www.sa.gov.au/floods, call 1800 302 787 or visit the recovery centre at 28 Bridge Street, Murray Bridge between 9am and 5pm on weekdays
More information about volunteering with the SES: www.ses.sa.gov.au.
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