Thursday, 14 July 2022

YAMBA STATE OF PLAY: the small town of Yamba is potentially vulnerable to the full suite of high range climate change risks has been known for decades and these risks all but ignored in development planning

It cannot be denied that all three tiers of Australian government - federal, state and local - contain elected members and bureaucracies capable of making bad decisions, indulging in blind self-interest and sometimes corrupt actions. One just has to look at NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption records since that body was created in 1998.

However, because there is an immediacy to local government, acting as it does in the midst of communities, it frequently becomes glaringly obvious when councils and developers collude to 'game' planning legislation, policy documents and guidelines.

From 1995 onwards, the Yamba community has repeatedly been told plans of plans to develop West Yamba only to see state and local government do the opposite of what had originally been proposed.

In both the original West Yamba development proposals and subsequent versions, both tiers of government were relying too heavily on the fact that by the late 1950s & early 1960s the Clarence River floodplain had become the largest regulated coastal floodplain in coastal NSW [Damian Lucas, 2004]. 

The Clarence River flooding nineteen times in a period of ten years (with the 1954 flood being the highest recorded to that time) had slipped from memory and the dead forgotten. 

Ignorant of the past; state and local government had become careless as to the consequences of their own policies and actions when faced with a consortium of developers who had virtually run out of land to be developed elsewhere in Yamba by the mid-1990s.

At the same time largescale development land in Yamba began to disappear, climate change became both a global and national issue.

Councils across the Clarence Valley and developers appeared to go into denial - nothing was going to happen in their lifetimes if it happened at all seemed to be the attitude. Maclean Shire Council (later amalgamated into Clarence Valley Council) was not immune to this way of thinking.

On paper this denial changed in 2010 when Clarence Valley Council adopted a "Climate Change Policy". Then proceeded in practice to ignore this policy when considering development applications lodged on known flood storage land in Yamba. 

So despite knowing that Yamba is potentially exposed to almost the full suite of high range climate change risks - floods, bushfires, heavy rainfall events, destructive storms, ocean storm surges, sea level inundation, coastal and estuary foreshore erosion - Clarence Valley Council and successive NSW governments continued to happily ignore this small town's vulnerability whenever they decide to increase population density along the Clarence Coast.

Yamba, NSW 2464 - a timeline

Note: All yellow highlighting my own

1990 - The first assessment report of the IPCC Working Group I including predictions of global warming and climatic impacts, was released in June. The 4th session of IPCC was held in Sundsvall, Sweden. 

Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced the creation of nine Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Working Groups in August

1991 - Enumerated Yamba Population* 3,832 people

1992 - United Nations (UN) continues its 20 year-long raising of concerns with regard to the atmosphere and global climate, having previously adopted the Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond

1995 - Maclean Shire Council rezoned land on the western side of Carrs Drive between Yamba Road,  Oyster Channel and Sullivans Road as urban release land

Mr Howard Bamse appointed Australia's Ambassador for the Environment, based in The Hague, Netherlands, in May

1996 - Enumerated Yamba Population 4,915 people

Lower Clarence River floods**

1997 - UN adopts the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC.

Prime Minister John Howard announced the appointment 
of Mr Roger Beale AM, Secretary of the Department of  
Environment, Sport and Territories as the Prime Minister's 
Representative on Climate Change in July

1999 - Department of Climate Change "Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coast: A First Pass National Assessment" released by Australian Government

2000 - United Nations Climate Change Conference 23 October - 1 November

2001 – Enumerated Yamba Population 5,818 people

Lower Clarence River floods in February-March

Australia could expect to see many more floods like those afflicting northern NSW if global warming were not slowed, an international climate change expert said yesterday.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change vice-chairman Tomihiro Taniguchi said increased flooding in many parts of the world in recent years indicated the impact of global warming was starting to be felt.

[The Australian, 13 March 2001, p.5]


Ongoing community action is trying to stop a 3000-person residential complex from being built in a flood-prone estuary at West Yamba.

[The Daily Telegraph, 2 April 2002, p.8]


West Yamba

100 houses [between Park Ave & Telopea Ave] adjacent to Wattle Park, requiring 90,000 cubic metres of infill dredged from the Clarence River.

 [The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 2003, p.29]


In April 2005 the NSW Government released the Floodplain Development Manual: the management of flood liable land which had "the primary objective" of reducing "the impact of flooding and flood liability on individual owners and occupiers of flood prone property". This manual placed the main responsibility for ensuring its aims were met on local councils. Including that in the selection of flood prone land for development councils are required to "Identify areas where development significantly impacts on flooding elsewhere".  Conveniently, the manual also points out that under Sec 733 of NSW Local Government Act (1993) councils are all but absolved from legal liability with regard to their planning decisions, advice and actions, it being assumed that they act in good faith.

The Total Environment Centre has asked the NSW Government to stop an expansion of development at West Yamba.

Clarence Valley Council has voted for smaller lots in West Yamba, which could eventually see the population reach 2,900.

The centre's coastal campaigner, Fran Kelly, says development in the area could lead to significant environmental damage.

"Environmentally it's a very sensitive area because it drains eventually into Woloweyah Lagoon, the Clarence Estuary, which is a very sensitive area," she said.

"The second thing is the flood risk, because not only have they expanded the development, they've ripped back the riparian buffer zone, which is there to protect the environment and to lessen the risk of flood. It's just an incredibly inappropriate area for development."

[ABC Regional News, 6 December 2005, p.1]

2006 – Enumerated Yamba Population 6,021 people

Lower Clarence River floods in August


For 250 kilometres, the Clarence River snakes through northern NSW before it meets the coast at Yamba.

There, during heavy rain and high tide, the estuary spills its briny current over a huge flood plain just west of the town. The 340 or so hectares of salt marsh, melaleuca forest and mangrove swamp act like a giant sieve, filtering the floodwaters as they make their way into Lake Wooloweyah to the south.

Now though, the Clarence Valley Council is one vote away from rezoning the West Yamba flood plain and turning it into a busy residential area.

In a monumental decision, the council has foreshadowed dumping 270,000 truck loads of fill on the area to raise it high enough to make it habitable.

Council planners want the area to house a new population of 2700 people in 1100 dwellings, with development levies to pay for an overhauled sewerage scheme, roads and other infrastructure.

But green groups say the proposal, first mooted in 1995, will put Yamba at risk from rising sea levels, and represents a dramatic threat to the area's sensitive wetland ecology.

And even the proposal's architect, the council's environment and planning director, Rob Donges, acknowledges it is out of step with today's planning regime.

"There are acknowledged problems there. It is flood-prone, low-lying land with a high water table," he said. "We have never hidden the fact that if we were to start the process of West Yamba today there would be doubts as to whether council would proceed."

The council has not yet received the findings of a flood risk management plan, commissioned to examine the effects of altering the area's natural drainage corridors, but Mr Donges has recommended the draft local environment plan go ahead anyway.

He insists the wheel has turned too far to stop now.

"It has a long history and commitments [have been] made by the council."

These commitments were about the provision of new infrastructure, he said, and did not extend to catering for the developers waiting to swoop.

Of those who stand to profit most is one of Yamba's best-known residents, the founder of Billabong and surf star Gordon Merchant. Part-way through construction of his $10 million brick and tile beach pad four kilometres outside town, at Angourie, the Queensland-based tycoon has rolled his dice on the West Yamba flood plain.

Between July and October last year, through his company Kahuna No. 1 Pty Ltd, Mr Merchant bought 60.5 hectares for a total of $7.753 million. Most of this has been slated for a lucrative 2(c) zoning, allowing the greatest density of 10 dwellings per hectare. He did not respond to enquiries from the Herald.

Other speculators include two local brothers, Mark and David Mitchell, and a Terrigal-based investor, Mark Lawsen.

Mr Lawsen plans to build a retirement village, private hospital and shopping centre on his land, and has been vocal in his criticism of the council for not allowing far higher densities.

But the most noise has been made by a loose coalition of environmentalists, who say the council is about to commit an act of environmental vandalism.

"When you raise the ground level, the displaced water has to go somewhere," said Helen Tyas Tunggal, of Valley Watch.

"Other more established areas of town will flood as a result."

During last week's council committee meeting, Leonie Blane of the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition mounted an attack on the proposal's very foundations.

"We are concerned about the amount of fill," she said. "Firstly the effects on the environment from where the fill is sourced and [secondly] on the drainage and water quality in the area."

Mr Donges said the problem of where the fill would be sourced would be solved when developers submitted subdivision master plans.

He has flagged, however, the possibility of dragging it from the bottom of the Clarence River.

It is unclear what the council will decide when it meets tomorrow. The committee meeting featured a new, cautionary note among the councillors in attendance.

"It may be that people who are flood-proof at the moment will be put at risk," the Mayor, Ian Tiley, told the meeting.

"A great deal has happened since the council [first] decided to increase [the area's] yield. From the middle of last year a great awareness of climate change issues [has surfaced]. It is a whole different ball game."

If the council adopts the local environment plan it will be sent to the NSW Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, for ratification.

He has already issued a Section 65 certificate, giving conditional support for the proposed rezoning.

A department of planning spokeswoman, Lyndall Derrig, said the Clarence Valley was identified in the Mid North Coast Regional Strategy as the future hub of another 7000 dwellings.

"Flooding issues will be assessed carefully in the department's consideration of the draft [local environment plan, which] also proposes to protect and zone lands with significant environmental values."

[The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 2007, p.2]

Conservationists have accused the New South Wales Planning Department of bowing to "developer pressure" in suddenly doubling the estimated population growth for the mid-north coast.

The department's regional strategy now has enough land set aside for future residential development to cater for 70,000 residents.

Total Environment Centre spokesman Jeff Angel says the original estimate was for 35,000 new homes in the area stretching from the Clarence to the Great Lakes.

"We're stunned that they have double the population requirement," he said.

"We can only surmise that there's been pressure from developers to include some controversial areas such as North Arm Cove, Bonville, west Yamba near Grafton, and that they've had to upgrade the figures to appear to make that land grab justifiable."

[ABC Regional News, 21 December 2007,p.1]


Persons associated with proposals to develop West Yamba would be well advised to take special note of a decision of the NSW Land and Environment Court.

In an article headed Court agrees climate-change risk rules out housing plan The Sydney Morning Herald (January 8, 2008) reports:

"Many may be pleased to know the Land and Environment Court can overturn not just a council decision but a ministerial one.

The court recently ruled invalid a concept plan approved by the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, for a controversial residential subdivision and retirement complex at Sandon Point, on the coast near Wollongong. The action was brought by a resident, Jill Walker.

The court agreed the department should have considered the flooding risk from climate change as it was an aspect of the public interest that potentially had a bearing on the justice of the decision.

The decision is a win for residents who have been protesting for years against the development of the flood-prone 25-hectare site by Stockland Development and Anglican Retirement Villages.

Deacons Lawyers said councils would have to ensure risks from climate change in flood-constrained coastal areas had been addressed by developers and that they considered such risks in their decisions."


The land at West Yamba is flood-prone. Allowing further development in the area will require fill being obtained from elsewhere in order to raise the area above designated ASL requirements. That may solve current problem associated with the West Yamba site but one doesn't have to be Einstein to understand that water which would normally find its way to this naturally occurring flood storage area in times of heavy rainfall will be diverted elsewhere. And just where is elsewhere? Think about it. Land that is currently occupied and considered flood free will not necessarily carry such a tag in the future.

Yes, further development at West Yamba will create a new set of winners (just think 'developers and their associates'), but there'll also be a crew of losers who'll be up the creek without paddles in times of high local rainfall and/or flooding that results from waters flowing downstream from the catchment area.

Clarence Valley Council should have this matter uppermost in its collective mind. So too, should Minister Frank Sartor and all others who will be called upon to give consideration to any hair-brained proposals to develop West Yamba.

Remember, the law attaches great significance to the concept of precedence. Hence, this decision of the Land and Environment Court has implications for West Yamba.


[North Coast Voices, 8 January 2008]

The Department of Planning's draft regional strategy, now on public exhibition, identifies three areas as problematic because they are either flood-prone, environmentally sensitive or lack infrastructure. They include West Yamba, South West Rocks and North Arm Cove.

[The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 2008, p.6]

Because of its location, demographer Bernard Salt has pin-pointed Yamba as the next NSW North Coast "boom town".

"Yamba is a place to watch out for -- it's the next cab off the rank after Byron Bay," Mr Salt said.

He said the combination of an upgraded Pacific Highway and sea- changers making the move, cash in hand, had made it a prime target for developers to swoop in…..

Don and Jan Veale, who have been coming to Yamba from Armidale for 33 years, said the area had certainly changed dramatically.

"I remember the days when there was just a small number of shops and houses -- these days it doesn't look like the same place," Mr Veale said.

"It's a shame because there is nothing like this up and down the coast but that's progress."

The latest controversial development proposed for the town is a whole new suburb called West Yamba -- with a projected population of up to 2900.

[The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2008, p.11]


All existing residential zoned land in Yamba has been developed (apart from isolated infill lots) and combined with a population and tourism growth of 3% per annum, there has been increasing pressure to develop new areas. Consequently development has been proposed for West Yamba and a draft LEP went on Public Exhibition from August to October 2006. There are a number of issues relating to this site (including flood-related) and it is not yet certain that the development will proceed. The only alternative to this is intensification of the existing developed areas. Both scenarios are discussed in this Floodplain Risk Management Study as it is imperative that any additional development doesnot exacerbate the existing flood problem….

A number of issues need to be addressed prior to the development proceeding, including: impacts of fill, evacuation planning, environmental management and compliance with policies and plans.

Development controls for the development would ensure that the nature of the proposed development isappropriate for the floodplain and the flood hazard is acceptable.

[Clarence Valley Council, Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Study, 13 October 2008]

2009 - Lower Clarence River floods in May

The Daily ExaminerYamba from the air showing a section of Crystal Waters, Oyster Cove and West Yamba, May 2009.

The Floodplain Risk Management Study indicates a storm

surge warning time of 6 to 24 hours. It should be noted

however that the flood hazard can become high if the low

lying community to the west of the town does not respond

to flood warnings as the available high ground is only

accessible by Yamba Road, which is readily cut

by floodwaters. The only road out of Yamba to the Pacific

Highway is also inundated in the 10y ARI and greater

flood events.

[Clarence Valley Council, Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Plan, February 2009]

Yamba does not have a flood evacuation plan, with the State Emergency Service being the lead response agency in the event of flood.

In a submission to council during the community consultation process on any development at West Yamba, the SES stated that "It does currently consider the evacuation of the community at risk of flooding to be problematic due to access and the need for an evacuation shelter".

It stated that the development of an adequate strategy for Yamba is required regardless of the development of West Yamba, and recommended in effect that the local environment plan (LEP) be deferred pending the floodplain management plan.

[Daily Telegraph, 17 April 2009]

Yamba is a town of approximately 6000 residents sitting on predominately low-lying land surrounded on all four sides by tidal bodies of water and tethered to the mainland by a strip of land approximately 1.25 kilometres wide, according to a scaled map.

On April 17, The Daily Examiner published a front page article Yamba Prone To Disaster?

This article pointed out that Yamba will have difficulties coping with the predicted bigger floods of longer duration and increasingly severe storms accompanied by storm surges.

Part of this difficulty is the limited evacuation options open to residents should Yamba Road be cut by floodwater in any of the three to four places it has been cut in the past, thereby denying access to high ground at Yamba Hill for a considerable number of residents and/or preventing movement inland towards Maclean or the Pacific Highway.

Floodwater in certain side roads or across Angourie Road will also cause problems for residents seeking high ground.

The Daily Examiner article went on to say that the State Emergency Service (SES) was concerned about this situation and that its submission to Clarence Valley Council regarding proposed large-scale urban development in Yamba recommended in effect that the Maclean Local Environmental Plan 2001 (LEP) amendment for West Yamba be deferred pending further study.

The SES were right to draw council's attention to the problems which may be experienced as severe weather events become more common.

According to Clarence Valley Council documents, Yamba flooding can occur because of a combination of high river flows, high ocean levels, wind-wave action along the foreshore or from intense rain over the local catchment (Webb, McKeown and Associates, 2009, 'Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Plan').

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a storm surge is a large amount of water pushed towards the shore, which combining with the existing tide and/or floodwater, raises the mean water level by 15 feet or more depending on the inclination of the underwater shelf leading to the foreshore.

Wind-driven waves are superimposed on this surge and the total effect is often swift and destructive flooding of coastal areas (, April 18, 2009).

It is easy for the average person to recall that in the last decade storm surges have caused loss of life in America, India, South-East Asia and New Guinea.

It is also easy for Yamba locals to recall that severe 'east-coast lows' are sometimes preceded by days of rain and have been known to follow close on the heels of a Clarence Valley flood.

So here we have a town, with a large retiree population, two aged-care facilities and more than a few people without a car, faced with the probability that from now on it will be more vulnerable in floods and severe storms and, that there may be some risk to life as well as anywhere between $1.9 million to $113.7 million worth of property damage from any one severe adverse weather event (Webb, McKeown and Associates, 2009, 'Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Plan').

What does Clarence Valley Council do when faced with this risk scenario?

Does it look at the recent reports from reputable CSIRO researchers which state that sea levels are rising faster than was thought (University of Copenhagen, 2009, Climate Change International Scientific Congress) and move to protect existing residents by immediately beginning to organise a co-ordinated emergency evacuation plan? No, it does not.

What is does is decide to progress the proposed development of West Yamba (based on what appears to be 2007 predicted sea-level data), thereby eventually adding another 2000 to 2500 people to an already vulnerable population and taking away yet another section of local flood storage land, at the same time deciding that it will ask for money from a cash-strapped NSW Government to put together some sort of plan with the help of emergency services at some indefinite point in the future.

Why does it do this?

Well, on reading council's February 24, 2009 ordinary monthly meeting minutes and attachments, it appears that it has accepted the argument that to defer the LEP amendment would not be 'considered reasonable'. So intent are our nine councillors on appeasing a select group of property speculators and so determined are they to widen the Yamba rate base, that these same councillors are willing to ignore their duty of care and the risk to residents' lives in favour of being 'reasonable'.

Clarence Valley Council obviously has not taken note of the fact that should individuals in the expanded Yamba population experience property loss or loss of a family member as a result of predicted flooding/surges, it would be within the realms of possibility that council would face both individual litigation and a class action.

Our nine councillors should also remember that, in certain circumstances, they do not have full indemnity for the resolutions they pass. Or perhaps they do remember and that is the reason for the deafening silence on the subject of Yamba since they passed the West Yamba amendment?


[The Daily Examiner, 17 April 2009]

If sea levels rise 1.1 metres by 2100, large parts of the Clarence Valley could be under water and towns may have to be relocated.

It sounds like a dooms day prediction, but according to a report released this month by the Department of Climate Change titled Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coast, this warning is based on credible science and is a scenario we should all be preparing for.

The report's worst case scenario for the Clarence Valley is that up to 900 homes will be at risk of inundation from sea level rise by the end of the century.

At best, about 400 homes will be at risk and that is not including homes to be built in the future.

The report lays the cause of rising sea levels squarely on climate change.

It suggests extreme weather events will also be likely to become more intense, with larger and more damaging storm surges and the possible extension of cyclones further south.

"The current 1-in-100 year event could occur several times a year," the national report said.

According to computerised modelling based on a 1.1 metre sea level rise, homes near the coast and in low-lying parts of the Valley could be under water or prone to inundation.

This includes large areas of west Yamba, islands in the Clarence River, west of Lawrence, Shark Creek, Lower Coldstream, Tucabia through to Sandy Crossing, Southgate, Ulmarra, Great Marlow and Alumy Creek.

Populated villages along the Clarence Coast would also be prone to inundation, including Iluka, Yamba, Brooms Head, Sandon and Wooli.

Clarence branch secretary of Climate Change Australia Janet Cavanaugh said it was no longer a question of if sea levels were going to rise, but how quickly and by how much.

She said it was important all government levels started incorporating sea level rise forecasts into planning for future infrastructure and buildings.

"We really need to start thinking about the new sites we're going to develop and where we're living," Ms Cavanaugh said.

She said opening up land to development on the flood plain would be short-sighted.

"Like the whole West Yamba proposal," she said.

"We need to pull back and think about whether this is something we need to be doing."

Areas usually protected by levy walls could also be affected.

"We also need to start thinking about what will happen in Grafton itself," Ms Cavanaugh said.

"There will be more flood events where people will have to be evacuated.

"But what happens when it comes every year or every second year.

"Will we still live there?"

"It's one of those hard decisions we'll need to make."

[The Daily Examiner, 24 November 2009, p.5]


Local developer, Ron Kohler of East Coast Pty Ltd, said that blocks of land for sale in Yamba and Maclean today are hard to get.

His past projects have included Yamba's Oyster Cove as project director, Osprey Park, extending Lake Kolora and Matthew Flinders one and three-estate developments, as well as proposals for development of 15 hectares in West Yamba.

[The Daily Examiner, 21 January 2010, p.3]

The NSW Minister for Planning has approved the residential rezoning of Yamba's last available land release at West Yamba.

Clarence Valley Council was notified this week of the local environmental plan approval 'with minor modifications'.

The plan will take effect when the approval is posted on the NSW legislative website as early as today. Minister for Planning Tony Kelly said he had approved the rezoning.

It includes around 124 hectares of land zoned urban residential with the potential to deliver 1200 lots - approximately 60 hectares of land zoned rural residential with the potential to deliver around 110 lots - and 116 hectares of land zoned for environmental protection purposes.

"West Yamba has been designated for residential use in council's strategic planning since 1995, and is also identified as a release area in the NSW Government's Mid North Coast Regional Strategy," Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly said he had made amendments to the council's plan, which would help protect the local environment.

"I have introduced a 10-hectare minimum subdivision standard for the residential habitat environmental protection zone, up from the council's proposed two-hectare minimum subdivision size," Mr Kelly said.

"This will ensure there is improved protection for key environmental areas, such as sensitive paperbark forest and remnant rainforest areas.

"Development has also been prohibited along an identified drainage corridor, which will assist water flow across the site."

He said that due to the extremely large size of the floodplain around the development site, it is expected that any filling would have a negligible or no impact on local flooding patterns.

Dougherty Bros Pty Ltd owns around 10 hectares in West Yamba with the potential for 100 residential blocks under council's draft LEP.

"This is much needed land in Yamba and although the biggest hurdle (approval) has been overcome, it will be some time before we see land available," Jim Dougherty said.

Council will now have to formulate a development control plan for the area and pressure will now be on to upgrade the town's sewerage system.

[The Daily Examiner, 22 April 2010, p.1]

The population of the Clarence Valley could grow by the equivalent of three Yambas or another Grafton within the next 20 years, according to the Clarence Valley Council.

Council deputy general manager Des Schroder said Department of Planning figures suggested that by the year 2030 there would be an additional 7100 dwellings in the Valley.

With an average of 2.5 residents per dwelling, that is an extra 17,750 residents.

The growth appears to be spread across the Clarence Valley, with land releases occurring from Yamba to Clarenza.

Mr Schroder said close to 5000 housing lots would be coming onto the market soon.

This included 1100-plus in west Yamba, 350 at Clarenza (with another 650 to come later), 1000 at Junction Hill, between 800 and 1000 in the Gulmarrad and Townsend area, about 300 on the hill in South Grafton, and 300-400 at James Creek.

Mr Schroder said the Valley population had been growing at a rate of about 500 a year, but that was likely to accelerate as neighbouring areas ran out of land available for housing development.

"Lismore, for example, has got nowhere to go," he said….

Growth at a glance

7100 extra dwellings by 2030

17,750 extra residents by 2030

Land releases at

- Yamba ...1100+ lots

- Gulmarrad/Townsend ...800-1000 lots

- Clarenza ...350 (eventually 1000)

- Junction Hill ...1000

- James Creek ...300-400

- South Grafton hill ...300

[The Daily Examiner, 22 May 2010, p.1]

2011 – Enumerated Population 6,646 people. Lower Clarence River floods in January

After much discussion at a full meeting of council, however, councillors voted against the officers' recommendation; instead deciding to leave the bypass option open.

The proposed bypass would extend from Oyster Channel to the Yamba town centre at Coldstream Street, easing the traffic congestion along Yamba Road, particularly during peak traffic periods.

The particular site was identified many years ago and encapsulated in the Maclean LEP 1992 as the Yamba Urban Bypass.

In the late 1990s, a Section 94 Plan was adopted to partially fund a part of the bypass linking Shores Drive to Coldstream Street.

The report said the time-frame set for that plan was 20 years, with subsequent stages likely to take even longer.

The then-Maclean Council reviewed the proposal in 2003-03 in terms of the bypass's feasibility.

It decided there was a traffic need for the bypass which would provide future access required by the West Yamba land release.

It also determined the Yamba community should be given the ability to build a bypass along the proposed route at some time in the future, rather than leaving future generations with a lost opportunity.

Clarence Valley Council general manager Stuart McPherson said there was no set time-frame for the bypass's construction but confirmed that council was still committed to proceeding with the project…..

"So it's several years away yet but it would be particularly relevant once the West Yamba development proceeds."

Mr McPherson said the Yamba bypass was never intended to duplicate Yamba Road for its full length; simply to be a second road made even more necessary following West Yamba's development.

And that (West Yamba's development), he said, was still a few years away.

"That will probably happen in four or five years' time, depending on the availability of sewerage," Mr McPherson said.

"It (Yamba bypass) was always seen to be tied up with the West Yamba development.

"It was conceived at a time when the West Yamba development was expected to yield a lot more house lots than it is now expected to yield."

[The Daily Examiner, 11 January 2011, p.7]

Planning ahead

My small home town of Yamba on the North Coast has been cut off for several days now due to the flood. Fortunately, we still have a few flood plains that can take some of the excess.

Yet some of this flood land in West Yamba has been given housing approval by the NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly.

This irresponsible action is typical of the short-sighted views of government and their inability to take the excesses of the Australian climate seriously.

Paul Stephen Yamba

[The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2011, p.32]

Mr Schroder said growth predicted in the Mid North Coast Regional Development Strategy would see 7100 dwellings built in the Valley by 2031.

Housing development slated around Grafton includes more than 1000 dwellings at Clarenza, 800-1000 homes at Junction Hill and 500 lots on the hill at South Grafton.

Down river would see 800-1000 homes at Gulmarrad, 1100 lots at West Yamba (subject to filling), 350 lots at Iluka (when sewerage is connected) and around 200 lots at Lawrence.

"Most of that has been or is in the process of being rezoned," Mr Schroder said.

He said the Clarence Valley was in a better position to capitalise on the growth than nearby councils…..

Predictions by the National Sea Change Taskforce estimate the population in regional areas on the East Coast could grow by 94% or more than six million people during the next 40 years.

As a consequence real estate prices in regional coastal areas are predicted to soar.

[The Daily Examiner, 31 March 2011, p.1]


In February residents in the vicinity of Cox St, Yamba received a notice from council informing them that an environmental consultant was undertaking a flora and fauna study of bushland near their properties. The study was associated with council considering the design of the section of the Yamba motorway from the Yamba Rd/Shores Dr intersection following the Cox St and Deering St alignment to service Yamba industrial estate and West Yamba Development Area (WYDA).

Residents wrote to council seeking detailed information about the motorway. Council replied on May 3, stating that the situation was "no plans or funds to build an extension to the existing section of by-pass (near Yamba Business Park) and no demand for such an extension".

"At some time in the future when West Yamba has developed ... Council may have to build a further section of the bypass though that may not necessarily involve the section adjacent to Cox Street ... so in conclusion ... the current situation is no plans, no funds and no need".

Not satisfied with that somewhat dismissive response from council, the group wrote again to council and sought specific details about any environmental issues that might affect the bypass's alignment in our area (i.e. what did the environmental consultant discover?).

On May 30 council replied. The consultant's investigation revealed an endangered orchid along with a bird and nocturnal gliding possum that are both listed by the NSW Scientific Committee as vulnerable species. Council decided not to spend further funds at this stage on a Species Impact Statement, but rather adopt a centreline through the middle of the road reserve near Cox St. Council also added that a report was being prepared for its Civil and Corporate Committee meeting on June 12.

Ok, so taking council at its word, things were not progressing too far, were they?

Then, on May 31, council dropped a bombshell. It sent the group a copy of a report along with maps of Yamba showing various options for the bypass that the committee would consider. The council officer's recommendation was for an extension of the existing road near Yamba Business Park to a proposed roundabout near the Cox St and Golding St intersection which would lead to Miles St in West Yamba. Further roundabouts/traffic management devices at Coldstream St/Yamba St, Coldstream St/River St, Angourie Rd/Bypass and Quarterdeck Pl/Bypass were recommended.

However, on June 12 the Civil and Corporate committee went the whole hog and adopted a proposal to extend the bypass from Coldstream St all the way through to Yamba Rd at Shores Dr with all the roundabouts/traffic management devices previously mentioned.

The next chapter will unfold on June 26 when the committee's decision will be examined by a full meeting of council.

Pity about the lack of information and the lack of community consultation about these developments.

Residents and ratepayers expect transparency in all decisions council makes and genuine community consultation is an integral part of good governance.

Col Shephard Yamba

[The Daily Examiner, 16 June 2012, p.14] 

Near the coast, unusually high tides can produce inundation of land which is usually dry. Thunderstorm activity, especially when it occurs in conjunction with such tides, can produce significant local ponding in Iluka and Yamba.

Between Palmers Island and the river’s mouth there is an increasing influence of ocean storm tide conditions and peak flood levels at Yamba are dictated almost entirely by ocean storm tides. Storm activity over and off the coastline normally brings flood-producing rains over the land mass, with peak catchment runoff flows occurring sometime after the storm activity itself.

[State Emergency Services (SES), Clarence Valley Local Flood Plan, July 2012]

We all want a "can do" council but this must only be done with consideration for our ecological environment and our natural and human-made heritage. Too often during the past four years I have seen development and rezoning (eg West Yamba) proceed without adequate vegetation corridors and recognition of our heritage listed buildings.

Margaret McKenna South Grafton

[The Daily Examiner, 20 August 2012, p.18]

Yamba environmental group Valley Watch may have to sit by and do just that as the council votes for West Yamba to be developed.

The debate over whether or not development at West Yamba is sustainable appears to be reaching a conclusion despite opposition from some local residents.

Valley Watch member Ros Woodward said she was disappointed to see the development go through without proper consideration for the sensitive natural environment around it.

"West Yamba could be an example to the world of how to develop sustainably with a small footprint in a very sensitive area, but I am afraid all they can envisage is slab houses on great big mounds," Ms Woodward said.

A submission from Valley Watch raised concerns about how sewage would be dealt with in the development and how practical the filling solution was in the area.

Clarence Valley Council deputy general manager Des Schroder said, "The bottom line is this land has been rezoned and that was approved by the Minister for Planning. From every aspect this has been studied and worked on. People who say filling is not sustainable should realise that a lot of Yamba has been built of fill already."

Mr Schroder said studies had shown Yamba would be more economically sustainable with a population of 10,000 residents than it was with 7000.

The Department of Planning backed the council's position.

[The Daily Examiner, 16 October 2012, p.4]

DA concern

It is with a sense of foreboding that I notice that once again council will consider on Tuesday a subdivision on Carrs Drive, West Yamba. This time the proposal is for 15 lots instead of 22, but fundamental problems of sewerage, fill and truck movements remain.

Since Maclean Shire Council endorsed in November 2003 the recommendations of the Yamba Wastewater Management Strategy, the community has been told regularly that development of West Yamba will not go ahead until the sewage treatment works are upgraded. One reason for this was that dual reticulation - a key element of the strategy - was only feasible on a greenfield site. Now we learn that on-site wastewater systems (that is, septic tanks) are proposed for the subdivision in spite of the Zone 1(y) objective that the land be connected to reticulated sewerage. Onsite sewage treatment in a flood-prone area is a major concern, but of even greater concern is the likelihood that this subdivision will make dual reticulation difficult or impossible for the future.

Dual reticulation (that is, use of high quality recycled water for toilet flushing, garden watering and car washing) will substantially reduce the amount of drinking-quality water being used - an important consideration given Yamba's growing population and an increasing risk of below average rainfall, higher temperatures and evaporation, and below average runoff, according to the CSIRO. Its implementation cannot be put at risk by a 15-lot subdivision.

Then there is the matter of the fill necessary for the site. There are 15 lots in this proposal, but the Flood Plain Risk Management Plan recommends that key services remain operable during times of flood up to at least the 100 year +0.5m level - that is 3.24 metres AHD. The height of land in West Yamba at present is between 1.0 metres and 1.5 metres. To fill it to 3.24 m AHD to allow key services to remain operable will take over 12,000 twenty-tonne truckloads a year for about nine years. (Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Study, Webb, McKeown and Associates Pty Ltd, July 2008)

One has to ask what the impact of this traffic will be on our roads and bridges. A twenty-tonne truck crossing Shallow Channel every six minutes is a scary thought!

If Yamba wants to remain a desirable tourist destination it cannot afford to have its one road in and out of town clogged with trucks.

Gary Whale, Yamba

[The Daily Examiner, 16 October 2012, p.8]

Developer David Mitchell's 15 lot subdivision at 138 Carr's Creek drive in West Yamba has been approved by Clarence Valley Council.

CVC deputy general manager Des Schroder said on Tuesday night that the project was different to the main development of about 1100 houses proposed for the area.

He also said the filling issues in terms of getting that area above a one-in-one-hundred-year flood level were still to be worked through….

[The Daily Examiner, 18 October 2012, p.4]

2013 - Lower Clarence River floods in January-February

CLARENCE Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson has said "no thanks" to a private company offering to build West Yamba's sewerage infrastructure.

Michael Jones, a spokesman from the company, Plains Water Ltd, spoke before CVC's Civil and Corporate Committee on Tuesday night. He described the majority of the shareholders in the company as "investment banker types" and said they could build West Yamba's sewerage for far less than the council because they use better technology.

Mr Jones said the technology the council currently uses for projects of this type is from the 19th century and is outdated.

But Cr Williamson listed a number of examples where agreements between the private sector and the government failed.

"I am yet to see one that delivers a public, not private, outcome," Cr Williamson said.

[The Daily Examiner, 14 March 2013, p.4]

Climate change is on Clarence Valley Council's agenda with an advisory committee to be appointed next week.

Deputy general manager Des Schroder said climate science already influenced many of council's decisions.

According to the CSIRO the sea has risen by 20cm since records began in 1880 and whether you agree or not, predicted further rises are defining how the council plans for the future.

The council adopted the estimate of a 40cm sea level rise by 2050 and 90cm by 2100.

Mr Schroder said climate science influenced future developments in West Yamba and inland.

He said all approved development applications in West Yamba would be safe if the sea rose by just under a metre.

Other areas of concern Mr Schroder identified were the obvious hot spots Wooli and Brooms Head and inland areas vulnerable to bushfires. "Bushfires are often a forgotten aspect of climate change," Mr Schroder said.

He said the frequency of hot and windy conditions was likely to increase.

In terms of coastal areas vulnerable to erosion and sea level rises, Mr Schroder said the council was still working on a plan.

He said a sea wall in Wooli was an unlikely option because it would cost about $20 million and would lead to the loss of the beach. "There is no easy solution and we know there a few houses getting close to the water's edge."

Mr Schroder said houses built after 1996 were constructed so they could be relocated.

[The Daily Examiner, 10 April 2013, p.5]

2014 - UN Fifth Assessment Report from the IPCC’s Working Groups is published. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) held in Brisbane

2015 - Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015

SES Community Flood Safe, Yamba and Palmers Island, 2015

A large residential subdivision at Yamba is set to go ahead, after winning the approval of the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel.

Plans lodged with the Clarence Valley Council for the $7 million, 161-lot development off Carrs Drive went before the panel yesterday.

The proposed development sits within the 'West Yamba Urban Release Area', created by Clarence Valley Council in 2010.

The land is currently mostly used for grazing, while some ecologically sensitive areas have been earmarked to be set aside

28 objections to the plans were lodged, mostly concerning issues like noise and traffic.

A further 23 were also received in support of the proposal, and it carried a recommendation of approval from Council staff.

Chair of the Northern JRPP, Garry West, said the panel approved the development with a number of conditions attached.

"I think there's about 65 conditions which is about normal for a development of this size and this complexity," he said.

"The key things are obviously to do with water, sewerage, drainage, flooding issues.

"Key areas are biodiversity treatment because some part of the area is an E2 zoning and has some EEC species on it therefore there has to be biodiversity offset - that has been clearly provided in the conditions."

Mr West said there is still work to be done before a construction certificate is issued.

He said the conditions specifically deal with issues like increased traffic in the area.

"Because there's only one road in and one road out of Yamba, developments of this nature - and there are other developments that will occur over time - will obviously build some of the intersections to capacity," he said.

[ABC Premium News, 25 July 2015]

NOVEMBER 23, 2005: INTENSE debate in the Clarence Valley Council chambers yesterday ended with a victory for proponents of smaller lots within the controversial West Yamba development.

[The Daily Examiner, 23 November 2015, p.14]

2016 - Estimated Resident Population 6,191 people

Investors are leading the charge in a booming Clarence Valley housing construction sector, says a local builder.

The franchise owner of GJ Gardner Homes Grafton, Micah Middelbosch, said he has about 18 buildings "on the go" now and inquiries are flooding in.

"I've had to put extra staff on in the office and extra teams of concretors, carpenters and even plumbers," he said.

He said his company was building homes right through the Valley.

"Yamba, Maclean, Woombah, Junction Hill, Grafton, Kungala. Just about anywhere in the region," he said.

"And I think you'll find everyone else will be in the same boat."

Mr Middelbosch said investors were driving the latest growth…..

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson said land availability was largely market driven, but the council had done its part by rezoning sizeable parcels of land for development in Clarenza, Junction Hill, James Creek and West Yamba.

[The Daily Examiner, 1 March 2016, p.5]

2017 - Lower Clarence River flash flooding in March

Thunderstorm front over Yamba, 6.45pm Saturday 21 January 2017
IMAGE: Daily Telegraph, January 2017

Yamba has been drenched in this morning's heavy rain, receiving close to 100mm of rain in the past three hours…..

Parents of students at St James Primary School in Yamba have been given the option to collect their children early due to potential flooding on Carrs Drive…..

[Daily Telegraph, 15 March 2017]

March 2017 is the wettest that has been recorded at the Yamba weather station on Pilot Hill.

The highest March rainfall recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) between 1877 and 2017 was 617.5mm in 1974: Yamba’s March 2017 rain total is 728.8mm.

The average March rainfall in Yamba is 186.9mm.

There were three major rain events recorded during the month: 149mm on March 16, 155.8mm on March 18 and 261.4mm on March 31, which fell short of the highest daily total of 300mm recorded in March 1999.

March 2017’s total of 728.8mm is the second wettest month on record, exceeded only by the 753mm recorded in May 1921.

There is only one other month that has recorded more than 700mm of rain; 707.5mm was recorded in July 1950.

Yamba’s rain records show that there have now been four 24-hour periods that have recorded more than 260mm of rain: February 21, 1954 (270.5), March2, 1999 (300mm), May15, 1921 (273.1mm) and March 31 2017 (261.4mm).

The Clarence Valley was lucky to evade the disastrous fates of various locations to the valley’s north, Lismore in particular, as a result of the effects of ex-tropical cyclone Debbie.

[Clarence Valley Independent, 5 April 2017]


The Bureau of Meteorology said the region's seasonal thunderstorms were likely to be more common this year, due to higher levels of humidity.

Bureau forecaster, Jake Phillips, said residents should expect more hail, heavy rain and lightning in the coming months.

"Climatologists are suggesting the months ahead are likely to be a bit more humid than average with a bit higher than average rainfall," he said.

"That does make the environment a bit more susceptible to thunderstorm development.

"It's only the start of January and storm activity usually sees a peak in December and January, but we see quite a lot of storm activity through March sometimes even April."

[ABC News, 3 January 2018]

2019 - IPCC "Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low-Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities" - assessing past and future contributions to global, regional and extreme sea level changes, associated risk to low-lying islands, coasts, cities, and settlements, and response options and pathways to resilience and sustainable development along the coast - released by UN in September

Storm passing over Yamba on Saturday 9 February 2019.
Photographer Mitchell Forrester IMAGE: The Courier Mail, 11 February 2019

On 25 July 2019 Clarence Valley Council adopted Climate Change Policy V4.0. This two-page document supersedes the 2010, 2013 and 2016 versions and is scheduled for review in August 2023. This document has the objective of fostering a balance between development and the environment considering climate change impacts and, again on paper, recognises there is a climate emergency underway.

Strong southerly winds forecast for that morning
with winds expected to likely reach 80kph by 11am.
IMAGE: NSW Rural Fire Service, 9 September 2019

2020 - The Australian Bureau of Meteorology releases "State of the Climate 2020" in February 

Lower Clarence River floods in December

There are eleven streets in Yamba known to frequently be affected by storm water and/or flood water during heavy rainfall and/or flood events.

These are:

Yamba Road, Carrs Drive, Sullivans Road, Angourie Road, Treelands Drive, Shores Drive, Telopea Ave, Park Ave, Cox Street, Endeavour Street and Golding Street.

Shores Drive, Yamba during a flood event
IMAGE: Vicki James, 2009

Cnr of Park Ave and Treelands Drive, Yamba during 2022 flood event
IMAGE: Clarence Valley Independent

In May 2020 Clarence Valley Council gave development consent for a manufactured housing estate in Golding Street - one of the residential streets known to be affected by stormwater and/or floodwater on the road and entering residential lots during high rainfall or flood events. A street where it appears water levels during such events is increased by stormwater run-off from the infill section of West Yamba. 

In August 2020 Clarence Valley Council passed the West Yamba Urban Release Area Road Infrastructure Developer Contributions Plan

2021 - Enumerated Yamba Population 7,210 people. Lower Clarence River floods in March and localised flooding in December 

First part of Sixth Assessment Report from the IPCC’s Working Group II (WGII) is published by UN in October

In July 2021 Clarence Valley Council gave development consent for 52 Seniors Living Units, 3 Lot Subdivision and Associated Filling in Carrs Drive, West Yamba.

By the night of 10 August 2021 Yamba's enumerated population was 7,210 people of which 6,405 were local residents and 805 were people usually resident elsewhere but currently staying in the town.

The 6,405 local residents:

  • occupied 2,770 private dwellings;
  • 758 rented their accommodation;
  • 875 lived alone;
  • 136 household owned no car;
  • the rest possessed a combined total of 4,162 registered motor vehicles;
  • 2,406 were aged 65 years to over 85 years and 254 were 0 to 4 years old;
  • 42.1% or 2,692 of all residents had one or more significant health conditions;
  • median individual incomes were $602 per week.

[ABS, Australian Census 2021, Yamba (NSW)]

Flood and extreme rainfall

Flood is the primary climate-related hazard of concern for CVC in terms of losses to residential, commercial, and industrial property. The main climatological driver of flooding is extreme rainfall.

At present, heavy rainfall days are most frequent and extreme at coastal locations including Yamba and Iluka, and higher elevation locations including Ewingar. Over the past 39 years there has been a small increasing trend in the intensity of heavy rainfall events (Figure 3), but no consistent trend in the frequency of very heavy rain days or very heavy runoff days….

Sea level rise and coastal erosion will continue to create a range of issues and challenges for Clarence Valley. These include more frequent repair and maintenance of exposed roads, and community expectations for road raising; increased flood mitigation costs; increased frequency of flooding leading to greater demands on waste management capacity; more frequent emergency operations; damage and disruptions to water and sewer infrastructure; beach erosion and loss of public amenities and restrictions to development in at-risk areas. Coastal erosion is currently of concern for some areas including include Wooli, Brooms Head and Yamba, and will be exacerbated under sea level rise.

For CVC there are currently over 500 properties at risk of a one in 100-year storm tide coastal flooding event. Most of these properties are in the Yamba to Angourie coastal area and are concentrated around the Clarence River. Increases in exposure to storm tide flooding—resulting from sea level rise—only emerges post-2050, when storm tide heights begin to exceed 2 m. By 2090 there will be approximately 65-300 additional properties exposed, depending on the climate change scenario.

[Clarence Valley Council, Phase 2 - Physical Climate Risk Assessment –Summary for Policymakers, October 2021]

In the March flood event [2021], Yamba Rd was closed between Yamba and Maclean, isolating communities….



Integrate plausible future scenarios into planning

Future planning to account for concurrent and compounding natural disaster impacts, and the consequences for evacuation centres, community, and CVC business and staff continuity, including pandemic scenarios.

Focus on areas of critical infrastructure, essential services, and location of operational staff in scenario testing.

Staff training to be delivered through specific scenarios to fully understand the inherent disaster risks in the event of natural disasters, and why resilience measures in preparedness are critical.

The CVC Climate Change Impact Assessment’s predictive modelling is incorporated in scenario-based risk and vulnerablilty analysis to inform planning.

[Clarence Valley Council, Disaster Resilience Framework 2021]

The area east of the new roundabout at the intersection of Yamba Road and Carrs Drive has long been a problem for residents during and after a heavy downpour; and Clarence Valley Council (CVC) is about to have another look at the problem.

We are engaging a consultant to answer whether or not the roundabout exacerbated the stormwater’s behaviour over recent times,” said CVC’s works and civil director Jamie Fleeting.

Mr Fleeting said staff would also “undertake a routine check of the pit and pipe network to ensure there are no blockages”.

Localised flooding, which followed a heavy downpour in Yamba on Friday December 17, was still evident hours after the rain had ceased.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the rain started bucketing down at 6am; 74mm of rain had fallen by 9am, and 16mm fell 9am to 9.30am –a total of 90mm in 3.5 hours, as per the Yamba’s weather station on Pilot Hill.

Yamba’s average rainfall for the month of December is 116.4mm.

Mr Fleeting said that heavy downpours coinciding with a high tide worsened the Yamba Road flooding.

[Clarence Valley Independent, 22 December 2021]

2022 - Lower Clarence River floods in February-March

IPCC “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the Working Group II contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report” released by UN in February

Landslide and sinkhole close Yamba Main Beach

A landslide has cut off Yamba Surf Club hampering rescue efforts, as flood waters surround the town. People are helping in other ways amidst dwindling fuel and supplies.

[Daily Telegraph, 3 March 2022]

Seeing the crisis play out in real time in her hometown, knowing that the Clarence Valley Food Inc had been unsuccessful in Bushfire Recovery and Resilience funding for an emergency disaster hub twice, has been upsetting.

The hope was to be able to manage natural disasters locally by building a dry and cold storage and become an epicentre for the North Coast.

This would have allowed critical supplies to be stockpiled for emergency situations such as the current flood crisis.

We would have had food on the ground five days ago as the resources would have been five minutes away and could be helicoptered in,” she said.

This break in the supply chain is not unprecedented,” Councillor Novak said.

The state government knew about this and knew it would happen.

Other communities got the money and we didn’t so it’s a bit galling.”

Despite the significant impact the road closure has had on supplies Ms Novak said the community spirit is strong. Council staff, community organisations such as the Rugby League Club and Surf Life Saving Club and community have come together.

Money can’t buy that sense of community spirit,” she said.

It gives you hope.”

She praised the SES who have been collecting purchases for residents from Maclean supermarkets and delivering food and milk by boat.

The regular supply chain for delivery to the supermarkets in Yamba is via Pearson Transport.

Pearson Transport Stock Controller Graham Pearson said they have a truck loaded in Grafton ready for Yamba and are waiting for clearance when the road reopens.

According to Mr Pearson the supply chain has been devastated but the road networks are the problem not the supply chain itself.

Nearly every supermarket we supply to is empty,” Mr Pearson said.

A three hour road trip to Brisbane, for example, becomes a seven hour road trip and a very, very difficult one at that.”

[The Daily Examiner, 5 March 2022]

Environmental watchdog, Valley Watch, first began predicting flooding of Yamba, as a result of developing West Yamba, in about 1995; on Sunday May 21, the group will present a more than 1,000-signature petition to the mayor, Ian Tiley (or his proxy), calling for a moratorium on further filling and development approvals on the Yamba floodplain.

Basically, the petition is demanding a well-designed master plan for West Yamba,” Valley Watch spokesperson Helen Tyas Tunggal said.

During the record rain that fell during February and March, many homes and properties were flooded for the first time, some of which were built within the past 20 years, theoretically above any threat of flooding.

Ms Tyas Tunggal couldn’t have been more succinct speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald in March 2007, when she expressed a view now apparent to many Yamba residents.

When you raise the ground level, the displaced water has to go somewhere,” she said, when referring to the estimated 270,000 truckloads of fill needed to accommodate future West Yamba development.

Other more established areas of town will flood as a result.”

As it happens, Cr Tiley, who was the mayor at the time, agreed.

It may be that people who are flood-proof at the moment will be put at risk,” he said at a Clarence Valley Council (CVC) committee meeting, according to the SMH, when answering a question about filling the area.

A great deal has happened since the council [first] decided to increase [the area’s] yield.

From the middle of last year, a great awareness of climate change issues [has surfaced].

It is a whole different ball game.”

According to the SMH, former CVC environment and planning director Rob Donges “acknowledged [there were] problems there”.

It is flood-prone, low-lying land with a high water-table … we have never hidden the fact that if we were to start the process of West Yamba today there would be doubts as to whether council would proceed,” he told the SMH.

Come 2008/09, CVC adopted the Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan, which warns that “it is imperative that any additional development does not exacerbate the existing flood problem”.

The plan recommended, for example, that a master plan “must address water-related cumulative issues”, including “possible floodplain management measures … (if the development is to proceed) [including]: a) a floodway, b) a comprehensive flood evacuation strategy, and, c) [various] updated flood-related development controls.”

Meanwhile, there appears to be confusion among CVC staff about whether or not the Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan is relevant.

In a response to a detailed enquiry by Valley Watch, following the public meeting held at Treelands Drive Community Centre on April 29, 2021, staff wrote that the Yamba flood study and plan had “been superseded by the 2013 Grafton and Lower Clarence Flood Model and updated Grafton and Lower Clarence FRMP hence, the queries in relation to this study are no longer relevant”.

However, the Grafton and Lower Clarence document excludes Yamba and Iluka stating, “Flood-prone areas of the Lower Clarence River formerly administered by Maclean shire council from Brushgrove to Palmers Island including Maclean, and excluding Iluka and Yamba, which are the subject of separate studies.”

Valley Watch’s insistence that CVC develop a master plan for West Yamba, because “there are many unanswered questions” about how development is or should proceed, was partially addressed in a Notice of Motion by Cr Stephen Pickering at the April 26 CVC meeting.

The community is heartened that the new council is taking an interest in the concerns of residents regarding development in West Yamba,” Ms Tyas Tunggal said.

However, she doubted that part 1 of the CVC resolution, to “support the creation of a West Yamba Masterplan document”, would be fulfilled and said part 2, to publish an “information brochure … to educate the community, does not go far enough and does little to address the current and growing problems”.

Meanwhile the mayor, Ian Tiley, told the Independent that a master plan would “absolutely” be prepared once the brochure is completed.

Part 1 demonstrated a clear intent to create a West Yamba Master Plan, to guide sustainable development and infrastructure integrated with the greater Yamba township,” he said.

[Clarence Valley Independent, 18 April 2022]

The Lower Clarence has experienced its biggest rainfall event since the start of record keeping in 1877, following the sizeable rainfall totals received in February and March this year.

Yamba’s cumulative total for February and March was 1267 millimetres with a total of 549mm recorded in February and a total of 718mm recorded during March.

Yamba received 274.4mm in one day alone on 28 February - the highest daily recording for the month of February since record keeping began. On 1 March the following day Yamba received 258.2mm, for a total of 532mm in 48 hours.

Clarence Valley Council has examined rainfall data from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Yamba Pilot Hill gauge as part of a review into the cause of ponding in some areas in Iluka following the major rainfall events.

The significant rainfall has led to a saturated catchment and high water table, exacerbating the time taken for water to disperse,” Clarence Valley Council Director Works and Civil Jamie Fleeting said.

There has been no event or combination of events since records began that comes close to the rainfall totals recorded at Yamba in February and March. Yamba’s rainfall to the end of March (1435.6mm) is higher than Yamba’s median annual rainfall (1407.3mm).

We need to be aware that the most efficiently designed drainage systems are not built to cope with rainfall totals equal to that experienced in the recent flooding events…..

[Clarence Valley Council, media release, 20 April 2022, excerpt]

Clarence Valley Council announces its "Draft Employment Land Strategy" which aims to increase use of land zoned Working Waterfront and projected demand for up to an additional 6 ha of industrial land in Yamba, assuming the development of West Yamba. Future additional demand will be catered for through development of the southern industrial zone (11 ha), which is under construction. This indicates that current development will be sufficient to meet Yamba’s future industrial land needs to 2041…..

As well as consider a plan for addressing commercial land shortages in Coutts Crossing, Grafton town centre, Yamba town centre, and Yamba village (as necessary).

The Perrottet Government considers implementation of its Employment Zones policy as increasing the population of Yamba and environs over the next 19 years - at which time Climate Risk Australia revised mapping suggests that the Lower Clarence Valley will look like this.

Coastal Risk Australia updated inundation mapping for Lower Clarence Valley at 0.3m rise above mean sea level

According to a Ray White Market Snapshot June 2022, the median house sale price in Yamba was $1.03 million and median unit sale price was $845 thousand.

The 2021–22 La Niña event has ended. However, observations and climate model outlooks suggest La Niña may re-form later in 2022. As a result, the Bureau's ENSO Outlook status is at La Niña WATCH. La Niña WATCH means there is around a 50% chance of La Niña forming later in 2022. This is approximately double the normal likelihood. La Niña events increase the chance of above average winter–spring rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia.

[Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Climate Driver Update, 5 July 2022]

Snapshots of online real estate advertisements, 12 July 2022


On 28 June 2022 Clarence Valley Council backs away from creating a legally binding Master Plan for future urban development in the West Yamba flood storage area. Instead offering to produce an information document and  quarterly newsletter informing the Yamba community of decisions made between Clarence Valley councillors, council administration and property developers.

Council has received a petition from Valley Watch Inc. entitled ‘Community expectations demand completion of a Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for West Yamba before any further subdivision approval is considered’. The petition is dated 29 May 2022 and is signed by 1,540 people. The petition includes specific reference to the importance of a master plan to properly plan and manage the impacts about flooding and stormwater within the West Yamba Urban Release Area…..



The Council:

1. Note the Petition from Valley Watch stating that community expectations demand completion of aMaster Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for West Yamba before any further subdivision approval is considered;

2. Note the 26 April 2022 Council resolution (06.22.004) to prepare an information document about the planning assessment framework for West Yamba Urban Release Area and acknowledge that it will be presented to the August Ordinary Council Meeting;

3. Note that making any Council resolution to delay decisions about development applications in the West Yamba Urban Release Area would expose Council and the community to legal and financial risks.

4. Endorse the preparation and publication of a quarterly newsletter about planning and development in West Yamba Urban Release Area to improve communication with our community about how development is being managed in accordance with the established planning assessment framework

Voting recorded as follows

For: Clancy, Day, Johnstone, Novak, Pickering, Smith, Tiley, Toms, Whaites

Against: Nil


[Clarence Valley Council, Ordinary Monthly Meeting Minutes, 28 June 2022]

There is still no adequate emergency evacuation plan for Yamba on public display.


* An enumerated population includes permanent residents and those people not usually resident but present when a count was conducted.

** The Lower Clarence Floodplain is est. 500 sq.kms [Huxley & Beaman 2014]. This post does not contain an exhaustive list of Lower Clarence River floods.

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