Residents opposed to new Queanbeyan cemetery say it's a flood risk

Queanbeyan’s Riverside Cemetery underwater during the floods. Photo: Queanbeyan Museum)
Queanbeyan’s Riverside Cemetery underwater during the floods. Photo: Queanbeyan Museum)

Flooding and cemeteries have an unfortunate history in Queanbeyan.

Many can recall the horrific scenes after the 1974 floods that washed out the Queanbeyan cemetery, leaving bodies visibly strewn above ground.

This is why residents in the vicinity of the proposed cemetery at the corner of Old Cooma and Burra Roads are horrified the cemetery could go ahead in an area apparently known to flood.

Wendy and Paul Hubbard have led a vocal campaign against the proposed cemetery and one of their stated reasons was the apparent unsuitability of the land.

Mr and Mrs Hubbard suggested the land was prone to flooding and recalled a time when Church Creek, which runs through the land, burst its banks.

Damage caused to the Queanbeyan cemetery by flood waters.

Damage caused to the Queanbeyan cemetery by flood waters.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council is preparing a proposal to be forwarded to the Department of Planning and Environment for ministerial approval.

Should the proposal receive the green light the council would begin testing the site for suitability.

However a preliminary geotechnical assessment of the site did not exclude the possibility of flooding.

The report compiled by ACT Geotechnical Engineers states of the site, “Church Creek drains [northwest] through the site, with several smaller tributaries draining into it. The topography is mostly the flood-plain of the creek and its tributaries.”

The study found the permanent groundwater table was expected to be well below any expected excavations, but said drainage mechanisms would need to be included at the site to ensure rain water would not pool.

Could there be a repeat of the 1974 flooding disaster which affected Queanbeyan cemetery? Nearby residents of the above site proposed for a new cemetery say it is prone to flooding. Photo: Supplied

Could there be a repeat of the 1974 flooding disaster which affected Queanbeyan cemetery? Nearby residents of the above site proposed for a new cemetery say it is prone to flooding. Photo: Supplied

The previous owners of the land, the Gibbs family, confirmed that “after significant rain events the south eastern paddock often had surface water that could take some time to be absorbed”. 

Karen Gibbs said because of the agricultural use of the land the family, who had occupied it from the late 1800s before selling, did not deem it necessary to undertake drainage works.

Mrs Gibbs added however, that no one in the family could recall any major flooding events involving Church Creek or the surrounding land.

A council spokesman said despite the site being affected by storm run-off, it was outside the one in 100 year flood zone and this was one criteria considered when the site was selected.

So far in addition to the geotechnical assessment, a preliminary flora and fauna study has been conducted with more tests to come including a more in-depth hydrological study which would assess flood risks.

Former owners say rain water could pool for days after particularly heavy events. This photo was taken by neighbours in 2012. Photo: Supplied

Former owners say rain water could pool for days after particularly heavy events. This photo was taken by neighbours in 2012. Photo: Supplied

The geotechnical report also found that about one-third of the site has bedrock within 1 metre of the surface. This occurred in the northern end of the site and within that area refusal occurred at 1.5 metres or less.

The spokesman said the council considered a list of desirable criteria including distance from population base, environmental sensitivity, size of the site and depth of soil profile in consultation with Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW. He said this property met these criteria and allowed for further studies to be undertaken.

Nearby residents have been a vocal opposition to the proposal on a range of issues, including flooding.