The NT Government ignored warnings of “serious and costly damage” if homes and businesses in the small town of Pigeon Hole, 400km from Katherine, were not moved out of the floodwaters, local Mayor Brian Pedwell.
Severe flooding in the Victoria Daly region saw hundreds of residents of Nitjpurru Pigeon Hole and nearby Kalkarindji and Daguragu evacuate to Darwin. On Sunday, floodwaters cut off the northern freight route at the NT-WA border, partially closing the Victoria Highway.
Home to around 150, floodwaters at Pigeon Hole can reach 3.4 meters at the height of the rainy season. Aerial photos show the community submerged in water, with only the roofs visible.
The flooding has affected housing built by the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics from 2019, including six properties which the Victoria Daly Regional Council says it strongly objects to “due to the fact that the new development is in the middle of flood zone”.
Following the 2001 floods, the NT government moved the power station, sewage ponds and airstrip to higher ground – but houses and other infrastructure remained in the flood zone.
A 2020 letter from Mayor Pedwell warned that newer buildings were at risk of “serious and costly damage” due to their location, saying: “despite community calls that all new housing be located on higher ground, inappropriate housing continues to be built in flood-prone areas.”
Today, Mayor Pedwell said that the current destruction of housing and community property “could have been avoided if local voices had been listened to.”
“For the past two decades, we’ve been shouting from the rooftops about moving the community – including the health center and school – to higher ground,” said Mayor Pedwell.
“Instead of listening and doing something about it, the NT government has built new houses right on the banks of the river. It is no surprise to anyone, that these houses and the livelihoods of the people living there have now been destroyed.”
The ABC quoted Pigeon Hole elder Raymond Hector as saying locals are “filled with fear” every year because of the risk of flooding, and it was cheaper for the government to move the houses years ago, instead to pay for cleaning. from flood damage.
“A lot of money has been put into the community to rebuild it, and it’s gone in the floodwaters,” Mr Hector said.
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