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“Thirty years of hard work and effort” swept down the Hawkesbury and no-one seems able to help

Apr 19, 2022

Jeanette Hayden knows she is not alone when it comes to flood damage in the Hawkesbury, but the North Richmond pensioner says she “felt numb” after her whole garden backing onto Redbank Creek was swept away in the March floods, while her fight for assistance is certainly proving less than smooth.


This used to be Jeanette Hayden’s garden, consumed by Redbank Creek


“Thirty years of hard work, and the memories I had with my husband and my children has just gone down the Hawkesbury,” she says.


In the 2020, 2021, and now 2022 floods, Redbank Creek swelled to levels few locals have ever seen but it was the March floods this year which did the major damage, essentially taking Ms Hayden’s creek-side garden away and down to the river, leaving a massive crater below the rear of her home.


But it didn’t end there. Back on March 13, Ms Hayden – who is in her 70s – got in touch with Hawkesbury Council and did the right thing, filled in the correct forms, and yet is still waiting over a month later for flood debris to be removed from her front lawn, roadside at Susella Crescent.


To make matters worse, she called Council late last week and they told her the debris – which a RAAF clean-up team removed from the remains of the rear garden – had been picked up. Clearly it hasn’t – when the Post visited it was still there.


Redbank Creek in full flood back last month


Ms Hayden wanted to get a Flood Impact Statement from the local SES, partly so she could try and claim the $20,000 State funding for those uninsured, a path she had been told to take, she says, by the office of Federal Minister for Regional Infrastructure Bridget McKenzie.


Ms Hayden is insured, though as she puts it about her back garden, “you can’t insure dirt” and she needs her garden replacing to add stability back to her house, at the very least. It was feared for a while that the floods had underwashed her house, and that’s proved to be a real nightmare scenario – literally.


“Thirty years of hard work and effort,” she says. “And money in planting the trees, maintaining the garden, putting the steps in, 30 years of hard work and the memories I had with my husband and my children has just gone down the Hawkesbury. It’s depressing and I’m having nightmares.


“The biggest nightmare is that I’m sound asleep and my house falls into the creek.”


She says she was told by Minister Mckenzie’s office that she should claim for the $20,000 because that could help but she would need an SES Flood Impact Statement as proof of the damage.


“I rang Services NSW, they rang Hawkesbury SES and they then rang me and said we’re not doing them [flood impact statements] in your area.


“I’ve talked to [Hawkesbury] Council and they have said nothing. I rang the Mayor [Liberal councillor] Patrick Conolly and he said they’re not responsible but he said he would follow up where I was up to in the government grants from last year. I chased him up and he said he’d get back to me but he hasn’t.


“The Council did ring and say they would arrange for people to take the refuse, otherwise the Council hasn’t really done anything, and the refuse is still there.”


There was another issue during the floods, when her street was one of those to be evacuated over fears the Redbank Dam would fail. Maybe half of Susellen Cres got text messages to leave immediately, but Ms Hayden said she was one of several residents on the street who received no alerts or any notice to evacuate, despite neighbours opposite receiving the texts.


Each of the floods we’ve had – two in March and one in April, plus the previous ones in 2020 and 2021, have caused damage to Redbank Creek and to a number of properties along its banks. Ms Hayden said for the last 30 years the Creek had been “a crystal clear trickle”.


“That was my park, that’s where the ducks used to come up and play, this was where the water dragons would come and sit on my stairs, it’s where I used to go and sit and birds came and sat in the trees, but no more.”


“I had standing stones and a little garden down there and it’s all gone. My veggie patch is wrecked and yes, I just feel numb.


“ I’ve lived here for 31 years, and it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” she says.


“There was erosion this year, and last year, and in 2020. In 2020 two trees fell over and upended the retaining wall and the insurance company came in and put a new retaining wall in. The council didn’t want to know about it, they sent an engineer out who said, oh just plant some trees. In what, I asked. Last year I lost lost about 8 to 10 feet, this year I’ve lost much more.”


She says she has also noticed a difference since the new Redbank development went ahead.


“When they did the planning upstream [for Redbank] they never accounted for fast water travelling along curly bends on creeks,” she says.


“Since Redbank has gone in, yes there is a difference in the water flow and the speed of the creek but this particular flood we can’t blame them totally because of the amount of rain we had and people don’t take into consideration, including the Council, this creek also gets backup from the river and then when the tide comes in at Windsor that pushes the water back up further, which pushes the water back into the creek, which pushes the water up. This is something they never consulted the people who live on the creek about when all of this [Redbank] went in upstream.”


She is not the only one to suffer this type of damage as a result of Redbank Creek flooding.


At North Richmond’s Merrick Place an 85-year-old resident was lucky her daughter – who doesn’t want to be named – had come to stay for the night as the Creek rose.


Flooding at Merrick Place, also due to Redbank Creek breaking its banks


“Mum lost a huge chunk of land. It [the water flow] was so strong it took away her embankment and her retaining walls. And of course her fence. The hole it took out is probably 6 to 8 feet deep.


“I had stayed the night to keep her company and woke up to the neighbour trying to save his property. I can not explain what I thought when I saw it, I was absolutely lost for words, I could not believe my eyes, as usually from mum’s yard you can not even see the water.”


She also says no-one seems to want to take responsibility for repairs or recovery and she too believes the water flow and water levels in Redbank Creek have increased since the Redbank development has grown.


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