Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project –
David John Ritter (Part 6 of 6)
Interviewer: Jo David
Interview date: 30 May 2016
Jo: Welcome to the Dapto Oral History project. Today we’re talking to David John Ritter of Dapto, born on 5th November 1944 at Crow’s Nest, New South Wales. Hello David and thank you for speaking with us today.
David: That’s all right.
Jo: What are we going to talk about today David?
David: We’re gunna talk about flooding in Dapto.
Jo: Ok, what can you tell us about that?
David: Well I’ll start off by telling you some years ago when they were, the Council was putting the proposed extension of Fowlers Road. Ah, they had it on display in Wollongong Council and I happened to go up to the 4th floor and saw this lovely big drawing on the wall showing this beautiful road that was going from Fowlers Road to meet Cleveland Road about half way up Cleveland Road. And I looked at it and I said to myself, I said, “Who’s the idiot that’s gunna build this!”
And anyway, next minute the deputy, deputy town planner came out and he said, “I’m going to build that.”
And I said to him, I said, “If you build that,” I said, “you’re going to flood out Dapto.”
His answer to me was, “No we won’t.” He said, “Our experts have had a look at it and they told us it won’t flood.”
My first an-, my first question to the, ah, town planner was. “And how long have your experts lived in Dapto?”
And his answer was, “Never.”
I said, “Well I can tell you, I’ve lived in Dapto since 1949 and I can tell you now that if you build that road you are going to flood Dapto.”
So, he said after a little bit awhile he said, “Will you put that in writing and send it to me.”
So, I went home, and I did. I wrote him a little letter saying, “Would you like to know why Dapto floods?” It is quite simple. We get 3 or 4 days of heavy rain. Now Dapto has a rather large catchment area. There’s a, a ridge over there near Marshall Mount and it goes right across that mountain side to Farmborough Heights. So that’s a large, rather a large catchment area which comes down in this here. There are only basically two creeks that it feeds into, Duck Creek and Mullet Creek even though Robins Creek meets, heads into, ah, Mullet Creek from this side, it is still part of the one creek system. I said, “What happens is, on the fourth day that we’ve had this heavy rain,” I said, “what’s happening is the water comes down the catchment area, it goes into the creek, into the lake, the lake spills over and then the water starts to spread out into the ocean.” I said, “On the fourth day we get a king tide and what happens is you get this metre high wall of water coming in from the sea that pushes the water back through the entrance of the lake, spills over the edges of the lake, up the creeks and spills over.” So, I said to the Council basically, “Unless you can stop nature, because this is a freak thing of nature, four days of heavy rain, king tide, you are going to get flooding.”
Jo: How many times have you seen that happen David?
David: I’ve seen it happen at least, ah, 6 or 7 times.
Jo: Yeah OK.
David: Ah, the first times I remember when we were travelling back and forth to school, to Christian Brothers College in Wollongong. Ah, we used to catch a train in those days, the old steam trains, and I can remember on at least two occasions coming home from Wollongong where the water was coming in under the carriage of the door.
Jo: Oh wow.
David: Right, um, and I know there was a big one here in, in the ’80’s, where the water was actually lapping over the railway platform at Dapto station. The water level had actually come up to…