Sydney flood ratings sparks eastern suburbs premium hikes, hit to property values

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Waverley began its flood study in 2018 and sought public input, but all the homeowners who spoke to the Herald said they had no idea it happened. “Everyone was shocked to receive this letter out of the blue,” said David Lesmond, whose Bronte home was also slapped with a “medium” flood risk.

The council’s own report notes that of 35,169 letters delivered in Waverley during the consultation, only 144 questionnaires were returned – a response rate of just 0.4 per cent.

Home owners received their flood risk notifications in June and July, and were explicitly told their rating would not change as “the adopted flood study has already been endorsed by council”. However, the DCP is still being finalised and will be reviewed by an independent flood consultant.

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Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos acknowledged home owners’ concerns and said she was taking the feedback seriously: “That is one of the reasons we said to the officers, ‘Go back, it needs more work’.”

A council spokesperson told the Herald they were not aware of any consultation with insurance companies before the study, but the council was now looking into what the consequences could be for home owners’ premiums and property values.

Insurance Council chief executive Andrew Hall said insurers already had extensive data on flood risk that was by and large already priced into people’s premiums. “We welcome councils being more transparent with land owners around their flood risk,” he said. “That ultimately should be happening more broadly across the country.”

Home owners received their flood risk notifications in June and July.Credit:Mark Merton

The Waverley flood study involved co-operation with Randwick Council because they share the Clovelly catchment, but Randwick intends to re-run the consultation due to concerns about the process.

Lesmond, who is leading the residents’ backlash to the flood rating, had a degree of sympathy for the council’s predicament.

“They want to look at flood planning, it’s a serious issue,” he said. “They’ve done this very comprehensive technical assessment, and they’ve made this leap of logic that it’s residents who are going to pay for this.”

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Henry Brown has lived in Chaleyer Street in Rose Bay for nearly 40 years and says he has never had an issue with flooding. He believes his property’s medium-risk rating came about because “somebody went down the road for a smoko, looked behind a tree and wrote a report”.

Waverley’s flood maps show clusters of “high risk” properties around certain valleys, including a large one to the east of the Royal Sydney Golf Club. There are also isolated high-risk properties, which the council said could be due to anomalies such as “a localised depression in the road”.

By contrast, Bayside Council – which last year completed a floodplain risk management plan for Botany Bay and foreshore – said its flood studies did not categorise individual properties as low, medium or high risk. Rather, they identified flood hazards and rated them from one to six.

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