Social Democrats spokesperson on Rural and Community Development, Holly Cairns has stressed the need for both joined-up thinking from government and a commitment to working with affected communities in creating robust flood defences and mitigation strategies. Speaking on the government’s Annual Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development, Holly raised the importance of flood managements that use natural solutions, the necessity to involve local communities, and issues around accessing insurance.
Holly explains: “Flooding has caused irreparable damage to communities and businesses across West Cork. We desperately need a pro-active, whole of government, and sustainable response. Although there has been significant activity in building flood defences in recent years, there are lessons to be learned. To properly deal with flooding we must consider the broader landscape. As well as taking into consideration our emissions and climate action commitments. We need to take action on planning, afforestation, piecemeal interventions, and inadequate supports that have made communities more vulnerable.
“Too often, poor planning combined with inaction over years has resulted in flooding, and then communities have to accept highly invasive and expensive infrastructure when simpler and more robust measures combined with good planning could have avoided and alleviated flooding. There is an insufficient use of a watershed approach, which integrates flood protection, stream and wetland habitat restorations, and water quality improvements. We should be planting protection forestry along rivers to preserve water quality and assist in flood management. We need to protect and restore our wetlands as natural defences for fluvial and coastal flooding.
“We also need a whole of government approach. A response from the state requires: action on planning, tackling insurance companies who are not providing adequate cover for whole communities and support for families and businesses who are terrified when flooding is forecasted. Insurance, in particular, is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. Flood relief schemes are only one part of the solution. In West Cork, towns such as Bandon, Skibbereen, and Schull, need comprehensive responses that address their needs – not just higher walls.”