Brownhill Creek Report Attracts Media Attention

Elected members have have some heavy reading to do after receiving ahead of the public release the final report prepared but the joint Council steering committee.

8 Options have been narrowed down by the steering committee to one preferred option.

The report will go before full council I believe at the end of this month for the purpose only of receiving it and determining the timing of public consultation. This needlessly is most likely going to be early next year under the auspices of the new council.

With council going into caretaker mode as of next Tuesday this is the only course of action available to Council.

The report is available on Council’s website here.

It is a comprehensive report and if you are at all interested in the flood mitigation project I encourage you to do what we will have to do. Read it. As I try to get my head around the report and more importantly the reasons behind their recommendations I would appreciate your input, either via this blog site, via email or phone.

Personally I am not convinced about the costings they have provided us, particularly for their recommended option, but more about that later.

Positive News on Brownhill Creek

Council has just received a report from our CEO Peter Tsokas regarding the progress on the Brownhill Creek deliberations.

This was to inform Council on the progress of investigations into Creek clearing and upgrade options. Back in February Council authorised the joint council Brownhill Creek Steering Committee place priority on investigating a creek upgrade solution for the upper reaches of the creek, and to engage with the property owners to identify any potential issues associated with this solution.

So while community debate between the interest groups develops as noted in my blog post of last week Peter made a number of points including the following:

1.       A number of concerns related to each specific area have been identified
2.       Many owners were not aware of their responsibility to maintain the creek in their property to ensure blockages do not occur.
3.       Many owners were also not aware that irrespective of which options the 5 council agree to that the existing creek will need to be cleared of obstructing vegetation to increase flow capacity.
4.       Owners were receptive to individual agreements being developed rather than easements being established over their properties. This was seen I trust as preventing a drop in property values.
5.       Thankfully some residents were bemused that we would seek their feedback before coming up with design proposals and thanked us for the opportunity to do so.
6.       There was unanimous concern that the creek would be left as a concrete channel like Sturt Creek.

            7.       Instead, many owners were interested in either a stepped approach allowing for vegetation or, a more vertical dry stone wall concept.

This is encouraging news but not everyone has been engaged yet. There are a few property owners who have not been involved in the discussions and there are two wider community areas that need to contribute, namely the Orphanage and Forestville Reserve.

community meeting has been scheduled for residents around Forestville Reserve on 28 May and it is expected one will be planned for June 21 at Orphanage Park.

Unless the project Team remains short on technical detail we can expect a report back to Council maybe in July.

Brownhill Creek Debate hots up

I read with interest a letter to the editor in the Hills & Valley Messenger today by Mr Pearce admonishing Mr Bellchambers who is the public spokesperson for the no Dams group.

I did not see the previous correspondence but it appears that resident groups are now engaging in open warfare with each other. And these three groups are all on the same page….”how dare you interrupt my street, my neighbourhood.

Until now the angst has been against the Councils, originally the Mitcham Council for supporting the “no dams” group who are Mitcham residents. It then turned on Unley as the “save Our Streets” group formed to prevent culverts down their streets.

Unfortunately the Brownhill Creek Flood mitigation solution continues to be misconstrued and misrepresented by those not directly involved in working through the design criteria. Many have incorrectly the motives of the Councils as the work to develop solutions proceeded. The solutions have involved engineering challenge that require a lot of work to develop.

The article can be found at this link and is by a member of SOCKET, Mr Tom Pearce. SOCKET stands for Save Our Creeks Environs Trees. They are the third group to get involved in what is now a public debate over what should happen to flood proof the Brownhill Creek Environs.

The first was Mr Ron Bellchambers “No Dam” group. As the first group to get involved they mustered up Adelaide wide support to save the the area proposed for “a” dam. I am aware that people now representing the other two groups, without realizing the cost to them signed the no dam petition.

When the 5 councils then determined that they could agree on the 80% of the consultants recommendation that could proceed with or without the dam to see if there were alternatives to providing a dam we enraged another group. Please note that this was not the 5 councils agreeing on a no dam solution. It was agreeing on what we could without taking into account the dam.

When this decision was made we determined that we had to do the research necessary to determine if a culvert based solution was workable or not.

I personally always felt it was not feasible, but given many did and given the State wide outrage against the dam, the work had to be done to prove it one way or the other.The trouble was when this was commenced it was seen by a group known as Save Our Streets as selling them down the creek as it where. It would have been irresponsible for the Councils not to undertake this work.

And now as we examine the prospect of what may be able to be done to the creek itself and I note that some work was always going to have to be done to the creek, whatever else was done, a third group is up in arms. They too have indicated they believe we are using them to avoid a dam.

And if I read the letter to the editor correctly there is a belief out there that this exercise is about saving money. We will have to wait and see on that one. I would not mind betting (not that i am a betting man) that we may see the costs escalate.

I feel for all the members of all three groups. They have their own environment to protect and good on them.

What I do say is the 5 Councils will continue to do the research they need to determine what is the BEST solution. And as we do I encourage members of all 3 groups to put your case forward as your input is invaluable as part of the research into the most suitable solution.

As we (the 5 Councils) await the next stage of finding an appropriate solution) I wonder what the cos will be and I wonder how this will compare with the costs to society of a 100 year flood. I ponder this because the cost to do the project appears to me to be escalating and with new flood data suggesting the 100 year flood will not be as significant as first thought (thanks to new data available from the Bureau of Meteorology) the potential flood damage costs would appear to be reducing.


Dammed if we do, Dammed if we Don’t

With the 5 Brownhill Creek Councils now investigating what impact clearing the actual creek itself and maybe carrying out works in some sections to improve the flow we have some residents believing that we are selling them short again.

Some time ago when Unley Council determined it would be appropriate to explore if there were options worth considering as alternatives to the dam up in Brownhill Creek some of our residents accused us of selling them out.

On that occasion we alerted residents that we would do some work on exploring the effectiveness of culverts. I voted for this even though I felt it would not be found to be practical. I envisaged the potential was that there would be widespread significant tree removal in Unley to save the 5 up in Brownhill Creek and if this was the case then I simply would not be able to support a no dam solution.

It was the sort of project that warranted engineering input however before going out to consultation to those that residents that would be affected. Before this design concept work could be finished the word got out as to what was being investigated and we got into trouble for not having consulted first.

This time round we need the knowledge that each of the property owners along the creek have accumulated before getting into any engineering design. So what was the reaction of some people. We are hiding our true intent because we are not sharing the engineering.

Interestingly we shared thoughts with three distinct group along our section of the creek last Saturday and we had three entirely different communications.

Community engagement is forever a challenge in that what level of contribution do we invite our residents to contribute. In my short time on Council I have seen often that at the same consultation some people will claim we should have done more work first and others, sitting at the same table, saying we should have involved them earlier.

It is with this background that I try to attend all public workshop/forums because I truly believe I will be better informed about what needs to be considered than I will reading a report written by one of our officers in the lead up to a Council meeting.

And in the last two weeks I have attended four such forums, all involving residents in my Ward, including:

Goodwood Oval improvement plan
Millswood park Improvement Plan
The Brownhill Creek clearance concept

So dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t. And all because of a dam.

Brownhill Creek in the News (again)

Paul Ashenden writing for the Eastern Courier last week says one thing he would love to see in 2014 is the end to flood plan saga. Me too!

While we may agree I wonder if he has an appreciation as to why it has taken this long. Getting to the point where the project can commence has been a long drawn out process. But then so are most council initiatives I have learnt in my time on Council.
It commenced long before I stated on Council and picked up pace during my time. Irrespective of that however it has gone slowly, taking 12 months to determine the feasibility of the use of culverts in order to address the concerns of a state wide petition against damming any area up in Brownhill Creek.
As a regular reader of my posts would be aware of the problems we have faced trying to move it forward to a point of decision. You would also be aware that we have now more information and better quality information that may allow us to get to the magic point of getting work done on the ground.

Indeed I have advanced where we are now in two posts, just yesterday and Saturday.
He has raised good points though.
Interestingly one of the biggest critics of the Councils trying to negotiate our own self-interest is the Sate Government, who with their Federal counterparts, have yet to commit the funding they have verbally promised.
As I have indicated in recent posts I believe we may be close to being able to go out to the public, so that may all just be ancient history.
That is not to say that after public consultation that the 5 Councils will come to an agreement.
Pauls says in his article
But surely the time has come for resolution. The people living in the 7000 at-risk homes deserve it.
So maybe the State Government needs to show some leadership rather than throw stones. Of course we may have a new one in 9 weeks’ time. Interesting times ahead.

Where is the Brownhill Creek project up to?

The Brown Hill, Keswick Creek Storm Water Project is progressing, slowly but surely. Your patience is appreciated as we move the project forward to a point where we can consult the public.

Be assured that (from an Unley point of view at least) that if and when the 5 councils put a proposition to the public it will have enough substance to allow informed debate. Much of the public debate currently is uninformed because the facts are not on the table. 

Here is where we are now. A report was presented to the November Council meeting, and to the other 4 councils I understand.  After considering this report and hearing deputations Council resolved:

  1. The Report be received.
  2. The final report acknowledges that many Unley residents will not accept any option that has high flow culverts in Unley streets and seeks to find a viable option that achieves this.
  3. The Save Our Streets group be added to the list of special interest groups.

Whilst I was unable to attend this meeting due to poor health I absolutely support this motion, as put by my Ward co-Councillor.

This means that the Project Group will investigate options that do not involve high flow culverts in the streets of Unley.  A number of options involve the construction of dams in Mitcham and the clearing and widening of the creek, or the combination of these.
Like you, I am frustrated that the investigations have not been completed. 

It is essential however that we have all the facts before us, given the importance of this project. We expect that investigation of all options will be completed soon enabling all five councils will consider these options before extensive community consultation occurs.

The last 12 months have gone slow as the project engineers try to find solutions to allow a no dam option. This is a process I believe had to be undertaken. I say this notwithstanding I had grave reservations about the culvert options.
The Council and I are committed to finding the best drainage solution that protects houses and businesses in the flood plains. We will find a solution that will have the least environmental, financial and social impacts. 

It is not our wish to impose an unrealistic expense on ratepayers, to allow the destruction of heritage sites or significant trees, to ruin the amenity of your neighbourhood or to exacerbate disruptions in our community.

People Power Rising Up Again on the Brownhill Creek Flood Mitigation project.

The link below is an article by John Stokes of the Eastern Courier revealing that community action in the streets of Unley is gearing up now that the human cost of the no dam alternatives to the Brownhill Creek Flood Mitigation are about to be revealed.

Over twelve months ago a group of concerned citizens from up at Brownhill Creek marshalled the rest of the Adelaide metropolitan area to side with their concerns over the proposal to build a dam in the National Park, including people living in Millswood, and in the streets noted in John’s article. It was successful in redirecting the design efforts of the project team employed by the 5 metropolitan councils involved in the flood mitigation project.

At the time I was happy to vote that we explore an alternative option that involved wider and deeper and longer culverts in the streets of Unley & Mitcham Councils. I can say that the voice against the dam was so loud and so strong as so prolonged that another option was needed. And any such alternate option had to be a no dam anywhere option, given the opposition to previous dam options.

In voting to explore the culvert option I was always of the view that it would prove not to be a feasible option. The design review is not yet available to elected members to view, let alone the public, but there is a growing sense that it is going to show that this option simply will not be feasible.

Much anger has been displayed by the growing group of residents mentioned in the article toward the Elected members of Unley.

I say again that those representing these citizens have not sold them down the drain as some have suggested. They have taken a responsible approach that will demonstrate that a dam IS required.

I expect the no dammers to come out again loud and clear so we will have potentially citizen against citizen, rather than council against council. And the war cry will be similar —- save the trees, but which ones.

This is the 2014 issue that will keep the media alive.

What is happening to Brownhill Creek and the Culverts

The Natives are restless as Council gets closer to having something to put out to public consultation. This is understandable as no news can give rise to contemplating and therefore second guessing.

My understanding is Council will be briefed late this year or early next year with the finding of the Option 3 proposals the detail for which has been worked on for the last year or so. The sooner the better as far as I am concerned. Because the sooner we have something to consider and for the public also to consider, the less the residents who may be impacted will be needlessly stressed.

Option 3 was an attempt to find a resolution of the 20% of the overall scheme that the five Councils could not agree on. That means we agreed on 80%, which was important to avoid the Stormwater Management Authority jumping in and determining unilaterally what will and will not happen.

The Unley Council has been admonished recently by a number of residents in and around Millswood, who would be impacted significantly by Option 3, for selling them down the drain. Guys, let me assure you that simply is not the case.

Unley Council did what I believe to be the only sensible option available to it at that time. Under the weight of extreme and widespread public concern about the use of a dam and what it would do to significant trees in the area of the dam (amongst other things) we needed to at least be receptive to looking at other options. It would have been irresponsible to do otherwise. To do otherwise also would have made Unley the bad guys.

This concern resulted in a petition that went to all of the five councils and included (I know because they have told me face to face) residents in the Millswood area. Yes! Our own people were telling us no dam.

Little did these residents at the time realise what price they personally might have to pay. They do now as their neighbours gear up for a fight.

I personally have always been of the volition that the cost to Unley to save the environment where the dam was proposed would be far greater than what was trying to be avoided. I always felt that we could lose 500 significant trees, or more, to save the 5 or 6 up at the dam site. But you know what. I am astute enough to let the experts bring us a report that shows this to be the case rather than show myself up as the expert and arguing against all those people, noting that I had representation from members of the Mitcham Council tell me otherwise.

So the time is nearing when we get the results of the investigation into the feasibility of Option 3. When this happens the entire Unley Council will be keen to hear and obtain your input.

And the big tip I have to those concerned about what might happen 
to Millswood, and indeed Unley Park.

“You must not only present with passion to Unley Council, but all 5 councils like the no dam people previously did. And importantly you need to let the Mitcham Council know your feelings because they are the ones pursuing and promoting option 3 and need to hear that there is another side to that storey”.

DPTI Forestville Reserve Open Day

At a best guess I would say 500 people came and had a look at what information was available and to offer comment on what they thought good and/or bad about the various projects. DPTI had a swag of people there to answer questions, as did Council relative to the Brownhill Creek diversion and the redevelopment of Forestville Reserve.

Many issues concerning final design where answered, for me at least. In particular and concentrating here on just one, I was pleased to see that the electrification structure for the majority of the line would be a two pole cantilever structure rather than the Portal or Gantry style structure that DPTI had been using in all their promotions.

The Portal or Gantry structure will only be needed wherever there are 3 or more tracks, which essentially is north of Goodwood Junction. South of there, in other words south of Fairfax Street, the structure for the majority of the line, including beyond Unley’s boundaries, will be as below, two posts with a single cantilever on each post.


It is possible that some sections of the line, where it is possible to achieve it, that single posts with double cantilevers might be used. I have asked a DPTI representative to confirm whether this is possible along the Cromer Parade section and separately between Clarence Park Station and Emerson Station.

When I get the information I will pass it on.