Maribyrnong River houses flooding in Flemington, Melbourne

Maribyrnong River houses flooding in Flemington, Melbourne

A neighborhood is becoming more incensed about a wall that was allegedly constructed to deflect flooding water away from a famous Australian racetrack and instead shield it from their houses.

The bluestone wall that was erected to surround the Flemington Racecourse has been demanded to be torn down by residents living along the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne’s inner north-west.

It follows concerns expressed last week that the yearly Melbourne Cup Carnival would be disrupted when floods rose to the gates of the illustrious courses.

Video taken from outside the racetrack revealed that during Victoria’s last week’s rainstorm, which put 34,000 houses at danger of flooding around the state, only the wall kept the facility from drowning.

The wall was built to protect the track where “the race that stops a country” is held every November.

In contrast to the nearby residences, which are submerged, the track is situated on a flood plain that has been shielded by the wall.

People’s lives are more important than a horse race, according to Darlene Ciaffaglione, who has lived beside the river for 44 years.

According to Ms. Ciaffaglione, “I believe [the wall] has made a big impact, it should never have been created, and I am upset.”

“People’s lives are now on display in the streets… That is incorrect since that is a flood plain and where the water flows.

Another local said that the racetrack was “only land” in comparison to the lives that were upended after losing everything to flooding.

Another resident said the racecourse was 'just land' when compared with people's lives being upended after losing everything due to floodwaters (pictured, homes affected near the Maribyrnong River on Friday)

According to John Karantzis of Carbone Lawyers, the business is looking into the viability of a class action lawsuit against the wall of the Victorian Racing Club.

He said that as a result, 50 residences were “closed and condemned.”

Since 1854, race meetings have been conducted at the Flemington Racecourse, which was constructed on the Maribyrnong flood plain.

The river burst its banks almost a dozen additional times after flooding the entire course in May 1974.

When the wall was first suggested in 2004, The Age noted that experts had expressed concern about the river possibly overflowing.

If it occurred within two months of the first Tuesday in November, not only Cup Day but also Derby Day, Oaks Day, and Stakes Day may be postponed.

Residents who said flooding would instead drive the water into new home projects and industrial estates along the valley level objected to construction.

The stone and wire mesh wall, according to opponents at the time, would prevent flood waters from overflowing into the racecourse, a 100-hectare natural storage area, forcing them downstream into neighborhoods like Kensington Banks, upstream to the Edgewater estate, and even as far away as Maribyrnong Village.

2007 saw the construction of the wall despite the protests.

Ellen Sandall, a State Labor MP for the Greens, said that the wall was erected to safeguard the gambling and horse racing businesses’ revenues.

Despite the negative effects it would have on the adjacent residences and public areas,

Since the racetrack is located in a floodplain, it should be able to withstand flooding, Ms. Sandall said on social media on Saturday.

Instead, it’s the only dry ground for kilometers around, while some in neighboring Maribyrnong have flooded houses and businesses and many were yesterday evacuated on rubber dinghies. People have also lost their automobiles.

Geoff Crapper, a specialist in hydrology and flood warning, said that twenty years ago, while he was still employed for Melbourne Water, he had forewarned the government of possible floods on the Maribyrnong River.

I advised the government to take action to stop the floods in Maribyrnong, said Crapper. “It was just a matter of time until (it) happened again.”

Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, backed a Melbourne Water investigation into the wall.

But Mr. Crapper insisted that a neutral assessment be conducted.

Steve Rosich, chief executive officer of the Victorian Racing Club, said that the organization will work together with Melbourne Water to undertake an assessment of the Maribyrnong River floods.

According to Mr. Rosich, “Our sympathies are with those who have been affected across the state by this exceptional weather event that has brought floods throughout Victoria.”

Images that surfaced last Friday showed brown water overflowing stables within the racecourse site only meters from from the track itself, which was disturbing.

The Penfolds Victoria Derby Day on October 29 marks the formal start of the carnival, however the effects of floodwater might cause a significant delay.

After Covid-19 lockdowns wrecked the last several events, the cancellation of the carnival would be disastrous to the whole state.

A research tracking the effects of the Melbourne Cup Carnival in 2019—the year Covid Victoria shut down—found that the 2018 race gave the Victorian economy a record boost.

According to the analysis, the state received an economic return of $447.6 million, a 20% increase over 2014.

In the meanwhile, 60 warnings are still in effect throughout the state of Victoria, which is under a torrent of water, and 34,000 properties are still at risk.

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