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Residents Threaten Major Legal Action Against Council

Jul 21, 2023

Property owners affected by the collapsed river bank at Cornwallis Road, Richmond are furious at the restoration scheme that has been announced by the Hawkesbury City Council and the NSW government, beginning the end of a saga that has dragged on for more than 800 days.

They have branded it “a disgraceful copout, a band-aid solution and a willful waste of taxpayer funding”.

“The NSW Government has advised that it has secured its portion of funding for flood repairs at Cornwallis, including the repair of the flood mitigation system and the replacement of the missing section of Cornwallis Road,” the HCC said in a letter to riverside landowners Thursday.

“The option that has been identified by the NSW Government is to restore Cornwallis Road on a 13-metre-high embankment and provide suitable drainage infrastructure under the road from Bakers Lagoon to the new bay. This option reinstates the natural levee function and the protection it provided to landowners. It will not restore the riverbank to its original alignment; the small bay will remain.

Neither level of government will reveal the cost of  the project although previous estimates have been between $20 million-$40 million. State government representatives have also refused to show affected landowners plans for independent review or costings, claiming this may affect the tender process.

In the face of a potential multi-million lawsuit, the HCC has also claimed that the March 2021 flood caused the initial collapse. But it was the collapse of a poorly maintained council drain, that ran from the Richmond Lowlands into the river, that caused the river bank to collapse during the flood. This quickly expanded into a small “bay”. Subsequent floods, Council delays and then a drain patch up, eventually saw an expanded canyon and an 180-metre section of Cornwallis Road lost.

Cornwallis destruction due to collapsed drain, council delays and floods

The two affected landowners were notified last week that the road will be rebuilt on a new retaining wall but that the rest of the site – known locally as Cornwallis canyon – will not be filled and fully restored. This will result in property owners Jeremy Bayard and Emmanuel Degabriele losing prime riverfront farmland, yet no compensation has been offered by any level of government.

“I will get nothing, it will ruin the value of my property  which will have a giant raceway running through the middle of and the total destruction  of 80% of my property,” Mr Bayard told the Hawkesbury Post.

“To make matters worse,  we have an alternative plan including engineering designed and a fully costed proposal,  which is less expensive to complete and will restore all the land. We have a contractor ready and willing to start work. But the government has not even had the courtesy to speak the contractors”

“That ‘grand canyon’ exists only because HCC did not complete any maintenance on the corrugated iron channels for 30 years. This is gross incompetence. The destruction wreaked upon the farms immediately adjacent to the canyon is the direct result. The NSW Government is now compounding that with another poorly thought-out, financially illiterate proposal to partially rebuild the bank.” 

Mr Bayard said he was preparing to sue the Council and possibly the state government but was seeking detailed legal advice.

Discussions have commenced with landowners regarding access and acquisitions, while negotiations are continuing with the Federal Government for its contribution. The Council said  restoration works will take 12 months to complete pending finalisation of discussions with landowners.

NSW Public Works will deliver the project on behalf of Council.


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