By Professor Jamie Pittock.
The inundation of homes and businesses in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley of western Sydney is tragic for the people affected, but it is no surprise. The losses are due to inept governance, not any act of God.
Dangerous floods in the valley are not new. On April 4, 1817, Governor Macquarie lamented “it is impossible not to feel extremely displeased and Indignant at [settlers] Infatuated Obstinacy in persisting to Continue to reside with their Families, Flocks, Herds, and Grain on those Spots Subject to the Floods, and from whence they have often had their prosperity swept away …”
The valley now presents a high risk to 70,000 residents as physical choke points along the river channel, such as the Sackville Gorge, bank up and slow the discharge of large floods to the sea. In modern Australia we expect our governments to apply expert knowledge in regulations and other programs to reduce excessive danger to citizens but such good governance has been lacking in the valley.