Dubbo Regional Council [DRC] has once again found themselves dealing with the fallout of not taking action when the Soil Conservation Services provided them with a report in 2018 detailing high priority erosion areas.
DRC manager of Recreation and Open Space Ian McAlister said the 2018 report recommended a number of devices be placed in the river bed at the Lady Cutler South sporting fields side site, but unfortunately there was no funding identified for it at the time.
"It is probably a high likelihood it would have prevented some of the damage but these were fairly unprecedented flows, and predicting damage to river banks with flooding events is pretty difficult to predict," he said.
This is the second area to be affected by council's lack of action, with the low-level Duke of Wellington Bridge being the first affected by the negligence.
A report delivered to council in 2018 from the Soil Conservation Service, shows 16 high priority and 16 moderate priority areas that were in need of damage control, the bridge being one of the high priority areas.
After heavy rain fall, the bridge eroded away almost completely, but had DRC taken action four years ago, the disaster could have been prevented.
It will now cost the council $150,000 from a Severe Weather and Flooding grant as they work to fix the Lady Cutler South sporting fields side area.
Works include moving a section of Tracker Riley walkway away from the bank retreat scarp and establishing a vegetated buffer to assist in bank stabilisation.
Approximately 300 metres of concrete pathway will be reconstructed to the east, with the maximum distance the path can be moved without impacting the sporting fields being 20 metres.
With the cricket fields used for third grade matches at the site already at a reduced size, the council preferred it not be reduced further.
Any further reduction boundary would result in the ground being relegated to junior field only, and requiring a new senior field to be constructed.
DRC Mayor Mathew Dickerson said multiple areas in the report had been indicated as being affected and he didn't want council to delay in fixing the issues and then have more erosion to deal with.
"In the report it said it seems like it's safe enough and that we aren't expected to get significant erosion...but obviously it can sneak up on you and we've had some erosion there already," he said.
"I want to make sure we're not going to wake up one day and see that more of that has fallen away and then we say 'why didn't we do anything about that?'."
Mr McAlister confirmed there had been a bench caused through bank slumping which had stabilised the potential for future erosion in normal to medium flows at the Lady Cutler South site.
"The recommendation says we want to do a lot of planting in that area and create a buffer zone to help create more roughness and help stabilise the bank and help slow the water in that area," he said.
"I believe the recommendation put forward by the Soil Conservation Services and what is in the council report is adequate to prevent further erosion in normal flow and potentially higher flows, obviously higher flows we've had in recent time are more difficult to predict."
The mayor questioned why they would spend $150,000 to move Tracker Riley walkway if the erosion had stabilised but the chief executive officer, Murray Wood said it was still a risk.
"We could still lose open space and the pathway, so what is proposed is future proofing and planting to create more resilience. There's certainly no guarantees that there will be no bank erosion in the future," he said.
Cr Dickerson warned residents and visitors still using the current pathway to not do so until it has been fixed.
One of the reasons DRC didn't take action in 2018 when the report was first brought to them was because council doesn't own the bed of the river, creating ownership problems.
"We sought legal advice, we own land that butts the river from the medium to high water mark, but anything within the river is owned by other state agencies," Mr McAlister explained.
This caused councillors Damien Mahon and Matthew Wright to question whose responsibility this issue becomes.
"If it's not on our ownership, where should reports go and where should action be taken from? Explain how it works because it's history repeating itself in my eyes," Cr Mahon said.
Councillor Wright said some "entities would determine council does own the riverbank depending on the convenience at the time".
He went on to ask about a potential timeline of the works taking place.
"We've got quotes for the works and once it is all adopted by council, it can be done between four to six months," Mr McAlister confirmed.
DRC received a $300,000 grant to do bank stabilisation in Wellington, adjacent to Pioneer Park, something they said they were extremely fortunate for but don't see happening again anytime soon.
"That funding will only do about 45 to 65 meters of river bank because the work is quite expensive," Mr McAlister said.
Signs will be placed in the Lady Cutler area two weeks prior to any works commencing and it is anticipated that realignment of the path will take approximately three weeks, in which time a temporary path will be in place.