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Victoria floods: Anger over flooding of homes on Maribyrnong River, Melbourne near Flemington

A community’s anger is growing over a wall built to protect an iconic Australian racecourse from floods but which they claim redirected surging water towards their homes.

Residents along the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne’s inner north-west have called for the bluestone wall, built around the Flemington Racecourse, to be pulled down. 

It comes amid fears last week that the annual Melbourne Cup Carnival would be thrown into chaos as floodwaters reached the gates of the famous tracks. 

Footage from outside the racecourse showed the wall is all that saved the venue from being inundated during last week’s rain event in Victoria, which has resulted in 34,000 homes at risk of flooding across the state.

The wall was constructed to safeguard the course that holds ‘the race that stops a nation’ each November

Lawyer John Karantzis said 50 homes had been closed and condemned because of the race track wall (pictured, flood victims near the Maribyrnong River pile up damaged goods)

Lawyer John Karantzis said 50 homes had been closed and condemned because of the race track wall (pictured, flood victims near the Maribyrnong River pile up damaged goods)

The famous racing track sits on a flood plain (pictured) that has been protected by the wall, unlike the surrounding homes that are underwater

The famous racing track sits on a flood plain (pictured) that has been protected by the wall, unlike the surrounding homes that are underwater

The wall was constructed to safeguard the course that holds ‘the race that stops a nation’ each November. 

The track sits on a flood plain that has been protected by the wall, unlike the surrounding homes that are underwater. 

Darlene Ciaffaglione (pictured) said people's lives are more important than a horse race

Darlene Ciaffaglione (pictured) said people’s lives are more important than a horse race

Darlene Ciaffaglione, who has lived on the river for 44 years, said people’s lives are more important than a horse race. 

‘I think [the wall] has made a massive difference, it should never have been erected, I am furious,’ Ms Ciaffaglione told A Current Affair. 

‘People’s lives are in the streets right now … It is wrong, that is a flood plain, that is where the water goes.’

Ms Ciaffaglione said the wall (pictured) had made a massive difference to her and should 'never have been erected'

Ms Ciaffaglione said the wall (pictured) had made a massive difference to her and should ‘never have been erected’

A bluestone wall was built to try and save the racecourse from flooding events like the one that occurred last week (pictured)

A bluestone wall was built to try and save the racecourse from flooding events like the one that occurred last week (pictured)

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)

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)

A law firm is investigating the possibility of a class action against the Victorian Racing Club's wall (pictured, Maribyrnong residents throwing out their possessions)

A law firm is investigating the possibility of a class action against the Victorian Racing Club’s wall (pictured, Maribyrnong residents throwing out their possessions)

Another resident said the racecourse was ‘just land’ when compared with people’s lives being upended after losing everything due to floodwaters.  

John Karantzis from Carbone Lawyers said the firm is investigating the possibility of a class action against the Victorian Racing Club’s wall.

He said 50 homes were ‘closed and condemned’ because of it. 

Flemington racecourse was built on the Maribyrnong flood plain, with race meetings being held there since 1854.

In May 1974, the entire course was flooded and since then the river has broken its banks almost a dozen more times. 

In 2004, when the wall was proposed, the Age reported that specialists warned about potential flooding of the river.

If it happened within two months of the first Tuesday in November it could mean the cancellation not only of Cup Day, but also Derby Day, Oaks Day and Stakes Day. 

Construction had been opposed by some residents, who argued floodwaters would instead force the water into new housing developments and industrial estates along the valley floor.

Opponents at the time maintained the stone and wire mesh wall would prevent flood waters from spilling into a 100-hectare natural storage area – the racecourse – forcing it downstream into housing estates like Kensington Banks, and upstream to the Edgewater estate and even as far away as Maribyrnong Village. 

In 2004 critics maintained the stone and wire mesh wall (pictured) would prevent flood waters from spilling into a 100-hectare natural storage area - the racecourse - forcing it downstream into housing estates like Kensington Banks, and upstream to the Edgewater estate and even as far away as Maribyrnong Village

In 2004 critics maintained the stone and wire mesh wall (pictured) would prevent flood waters from spilling into a 100-hectare natural storage area – the racecourse – forcing it downstream into housing estates like Kensington Banks, and upstream to the Edgewater estate and even as far away as Maribyrnong Village 

Residents argued floodwaters would instead force the water into new housing developments and industrial estates along the valley floor (pictured, homes destroyed by the floods)

Residents argued floodwaters would instead force the water into new housing developments and industrial estates along the valley floor (pictured, homes destroyed by the floods)

The wall was built in 2007, despite the protests.  

Greens’ State Labor MP Ellen Sandall said the wall was put up to protect the profits of the horse racing and gambling industries.

‘[This is] despite the impact it would have on nearby homes and public space. The racecourse is on floodplain and should hold floodwater when needed,’ Ms Sandall said on social media on Saturday. 

‘Instead, it’s the only dry land for miles around, while people have lost their cars, some in nearby Maribyrnong have flooded homes and businesses and people were yesterday evacuating in rubber dinghies.’

Hydrology and flood warning expert Geoff Crapper said he had warned the government, while he was working for Melbourne Water 20 years ago, about potential flooding on the Maribyrnong River. 

'People's lives are in the streets right now,' one resident said (pictured, residents help clean up a house affected by the flood near the Maribyrnong River on Friday)

‘People’s lives are in the streets right now,’ one resident said (pictured, residents help clean up a house affected by the flood near the Maribyrnong River on Friday)

‘I warned the government that they needed to do something about the flooding at Maribyrnong,’ Crapper said. ‘(It) was always going to happen again, it was just a matter of when.’  

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews supported a review into the wall by state-run Melbourne Water.

But Mr Crapper said it should be an independent review. 

The Victorian Racing Club’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Rosich said the club will fully co-operate with Melbourne Water as they conduct the review into the Maribyrnong River floods. 

‘Our thoughts are with those that have been impacted across the state from this extraordinary weather event that has caused flooding across Victoria,’ Mr Rosich said.

Steve Rosich from the Victorian Racing Club said: 'Our thoughts are with those that have been impacted across the State from this extraordinary weather event,' (pictured, members of the public are seen as flood levels rise in the suburb of Maribyrnong on Friday)

Steve Rosich from the Victorian Racing Club said: ‘Our thoughts are with those that have been impacted across the State from this extraordinary weather event,’ (pictured, members of the public are seen as flood levels rise in the suburb of Maribyrnong on Friday)

Disturbing images that emerge last Friday showed brown water already flooding stables within the racecourse venue – just metres away from the course itself.

While the official carnival doesn’t kick-off until October 29 with the Penfolds Victoria Derby Day, the impact of floodwater could seriously delay the event. 

The cancellation of the carnival would be devastating to the entire state after Covid-19 lockdowns ruined the past few events.

In 2019, the year Covid closed down Victoria, a study charting the impact of the Melbourne Cup Carnival showed the 2018 event provided a record boost to the Victorian economy.

The study reported the economic return to the state was $447.6million — representing a 20 per cent increase since 2014.

Meanwhile, the flood crisis in water-logged Victoria continues as 60 warnings remain in place across the state, with 34,000 homes in the firing line. 

The Victorian Racing Club was contacted for comment by Daily Mail Australia.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival (pictured) brings hundreds of millions of dollars into Victoria

The Melbourne Cup Carnival (pictured) brings hundreds of millions of dollars into Victoria 

Hydrology and flood warning expert Geoff Crapper said government needs to do something about Maribyrnong (pictured, inundated with floods on Friday),'(It) was always going to happen again, it was just a matter of when,' he said

Hydrology and flood warning expert Geoff Crapper said government needs to do something about Maribyrnong (pictured, inundated with floods on Friday),'(It) was always going to happen again, it was just a matter of when,’ he said

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