Re-think or swim

SHOCKING NEWS: Doug Rixon isn’t keen to leave the property where, since 1952, he and his late wife raised their four children. Photos: Geoff O’Neill 190814GOB11

SHOCKING NEWS: Doug Rixon isn’t keen to leave the property where, since 1952, he and his late wife raised their four children. Photos: Geoff O’Neill 190814GOB11

DUNGOWAN Valley residents are in shock after a study found 11 local families will be forced to relocate due to the risk posed by any failure of the nearby Dungowan Dam.

One of those, retired stock and station agent Doug Rixon, has lived in the valley for 45 years in a spot he calls paradise near the Dungowan Creek, just seven kilometres from the dam.

Another 10 properties both upstream and downstream of him have been identified alongside his farm as in the path of catastrophe if the wall broke, or more likely, Mr Rixon says, a flood came down and swamped them.

The Dungowan Dam Break Study, required by the NSW Dams Safety Committee, found that in the event of an unexpected dam failure or an extreme flood event, there was a high risk of loss of life at 11 properties downstream from the council-owned facility due to the predicted depth and velocity of water.

On August 8 Tamworth Regional Council’s water director Bruce Logan started discussions with the owners of the 11 properties, proposing two options, including the purchase of the land by council and the demolition of the at-risk residence, before selling the property again.

The second option is that council pay an agreed amount to the owner to build a new home of a similar size to the existing residence on the same property, but above the flood height if that’s possible.

Or the property owner may use the money to build a new home, or buy a home, elsewhere. 

Another 40 valley residents may also have their homes inundated if the dam fails or during extreme flooding, the study found, but the risk to life is not considered as high as for their 11 neighbours.

For these properties, the council is proposing the construction of flood refuges above the flood height where residents can evacuate to. Mr Logan said they were unsure just how much the land acquisitions and refuges would cost council, but they were expecting it to run into several million dollars.

He’s also hopeful that agreements can be made with landowners and all work completed within 12 months, particularly in relation to the 11 high-risk properties.

Acting mayor Russell Webb said yesterday TRC would approach the state government to help support it with the acquisition budget.

Mr Logan said he had met with seven of the 11 property owners and, while they were obviously concerned about the prospect of selling or relocating, they had undertaken to consider their options. 

That meeting was called for last Wednesday – but it provoked untold shock for those who turned up.

One of those was Doug Rixon, whose family has owned their property since 1952, and he and his late wife raised four children there.

“They didn’t give us any warning. They’d arranged the meeting and we thought it was about safety again but I thought we were going to get new sirens like we had before back in the 1950s, but bang, we were told we were going to have to move,” Mr Rixon said.

Mr Rixon said he’s suggested a third option, landholders releasing TRC from indemnity in the case of

a break or flood disaster but he’d been told that was no option at all.

“I’m only guessing how many houses above me might be at high risk too but I’d say there’s about six who might have higher ground like me and that’s what they might choose to do.”

He said he had about 10 acres of his 90-acre property that he believed would be on high ground.

“But I don’t know, it would be subject to valuation but I would like to stay here.”

He said he would like to see a fair value and consideration for having to move from his house.

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