NOT the South Gippsland Shire Council. Not the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority. And even not the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
No one it seems is responsible for keeping the culverts on Foster’s Stockyard Creek clear of the sort of trees and debris that fouled the waterway at the peak of a storm on Tuesday, July 5, flooding several homes east of Boundary Road.
Even in June 2011, when a farm dam above the town dramatically broke its banks, these same homes were completely untouched.
The fear locally is that if the buck-shoving impasse between the authorities isn’t sorted out, there could be a repeat of the recent flooding event.
Worst affected by the flood, or more accurately, the redirection of water out of Stockyard Creek because of the lack of maintenance, were well-known, long-time local residents and community stalwarts, Geoff and Shirley McCraw.
Such was the damage to their home when nearly a foot of water flowed through it last Tuesday week that they have still not returned home, and have been provided with emergency accommodation by friends and family until remedial works are completed.
“They’ve had all the carpets and a lot of the furniture pulled out and the builders are coming in this week to remove the skirting boards,” said empathetic next-door neighbours, John and June Taylor.
“The water flowed through our place as well although nowhere near as badly,” Mr Taylor explains.
“It mostly flowed down the side of our house. It did come right through the patio but fortunately we’ve got a concrete floor in there.
“Apart from the mess it left behind, we’ve come out of it reasonably well but they’ve really got to sort it out,” Mrs Taylor said.
“The fact is that the culverts at Boundary Road aren’t big enough. They’re not as big as the ones further up in the town and it doesn’t take much to block them.”
Mr Taylor said that although the creek was running high after the storm last Tuesday, he feels sure it would have handled the water level that was coming down if it hadn’t got blocked.
“It basically redirected the water out of the creek at Boundary Road and it had nowhere else to go.”
Mrs Taylor said it was only by chance that she got out of bed at around 10pm on Tuesday night and took a look outside to see half a foot of water flowing down the side of the house.
“We could see it was going into Geoff and Shirley’s place so we called the police.”
Their neighbours got out of bed only to find that the water was already flowing through the house.
“They’re still out of their house while the work is going on and we’ve only just finished cleaning up ourselves.”
Local residents had alerted the authorities to the trees and debris in the creek some weeks ago but the West Gippsland CMA, the South Gippsland Shire and DELWP have all denied responsibility for maintenance.
However, last week, South Gippsland Mayor, Cr Bob Newton was adamant.
“It’s the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning that’s the responsible authority. I’ve looked at the map and it’s been pointed out to me actually who is and who is not responsible and it’s not the council,” he said.
Locals say that while more debris, including branches and rubbish, were removed from the creek this week, it’s the on-going, future maintenance of the creek, which runs right through the middle of town, that’s at issue.
The problem remains unresolved.