Council says no to flood levee

By David Rak

The proposed Seymour flood levee will not go ahead after more than 10 years of debate.

Mitchell Shire Council voted unanimously to cease future planning, development and delivery of the project at a meeting on Monday night.

Council will also enter negotiations with the Victorian and Federal governments to redirect funding to other projects in Seymour.

While the proposed levee was considered to be a ‘multi-generational project’ aimed at protecting the town’s central business district from a one-in-100-year event, council determined the implications and risks associated with the project were too high to warrant further progression.

The Seymour Flood Levee Mitigation Project was originally adopted at a council meeting on October 25, 2010.

Since then, planning and design work progressed and several reports, consultations and grant agreements have been undertaken, costing more than $1.2 million.

Council will now prepare a report outlining the implications this decision will have on the adopted Seymour Structure Plan, which currently references the flood levee project. The structure plan will be amended and a report will be tabled at a future meeting.

In July 2019, council resolved to appoint an independent consultant to engage the Seymour community about a proposed levee, with the response overwhelmingly against the project.

Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe said council had been deliberating the decision for several months while taking into account a number of council reports, plans, feedback from community and specialised advice.

“We have come to this decision based on all the information available to us. Taking on a project of this size would have several financial and planning impacts on our community into the future and this would pose a number of challenges,” he said.

“We’ve remained focused on considering the future of Seymour in our decision making. Our community continues to grow and, as such, we have several risks to take into account with more people and more businesses moving into our community.

“We will continue to focus on planning responsibly and ensuring our townships remain strong well into the future.”

Long-term flood levee objectors Peter and Vicki Chapman said it was the people of Seymour who finally got the decision across the line.

“The unanimous no at the recent questions and hearings committee meeting was a wake-up call for council and councillors saying no this week showed people were being heard,” Vicki said.

“Councillors researched the good and bad around levees, studied various past and present reports and finally listened to the people and questioned the need of a levee. 

“It has been both an overwhelming and heartening experience. We have learnt so much and gained so much.”

Mitchell Irrigation and Plumbing Supplies owner Jack Tennant said he was disappointed with the result.

“During the meeting most councillors discussed how the grant money could be spent on other projects rather than discussing the levee,” he said.

“They said 84 per cent of the community didn’t want the levee but that was based on the small amount of people surveyed.

“The funding should be redirected to explore options to have the flood overlay changed or removed.

“If we don’t need a levee, then why do we need a flood overlay holding back development?”