When 500 mm of rain, or 16 inches on the old scale, fell within six hours on 23 November last year, the equivalent of almost twice the capacity of Coffs Harbour's major water storage source, Karangi Dam, was spread across the City. The worst storm in living memory, and described as the one in a thousand year flood, some areas were inundated with up to a metre of water.
Surrounded by steep mountains, and with Coffs Harbour itself located on the mouth of the area's main ocean outlet, the intensity of the storm provided little chance for evasive action. Over 700 businesses, homes, community facilities, sheds and yards incurred damage, with the final insurance loss being $31 million.
Council itself sustained property damage and motor vehicle loss to the tune of $750,000. Council's insurance broker, Jardines Australia, has worked closely with Council, treating claims more than favourably, with less than four percent rejected.
"With Council's insurers meeting damages claimed, we have not had to carry any losses sustained into this financial year," said Bill Davison, Director Engineering. Immediately after the disaster, Council swung a massive assistance program into action. As well as providing assistance to residents in carting away damaged goods and carpets, bridge and roads repairs commenced immediately.
Council has set up a Working Group, comprising community representatives and Council personnel to review the flood plain management measures in the catchment. Part of this review will include looking at raising flood levels for building approvals, currently set to cope with the one in one hundred flood level.
Works to the value of $2.3 million are planned for the CBD to bring nearly all premises at least up to this one in a hundred level. Future flood mitigation works and a Flood Plain Management Plan are also in the pipeline.