Residents of the southern end of Kembla Street have finally won hope of some relief, with Wollongong City Council committing to clean out and concrete part of the clogged creek that many blame for making floods worse.
Several residents met with council officers and the Lord Mayor on Wednesday afternoon, and after passionate and sometimes angry conversations, did not feel they got very sympathetic hearing. But they did get some welcome news, that council would act within six months.
The council plans to spend about $250,000 clearing out the creek behind the houses on the east side of Kembla Street, and which is regularly overgrown with reeds and other vegetation.
Plans also include building a concrete "apron" upwards from Swan Street culvert, and concreting the banks of the creek - in all, a concreted channel extending about 20m up the creek, to the limit of the land, which the council owns.
On Wednesday a dozen residents and business owners voiced their concerns to Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, council's director of works and infrastructure Mike Hyde, and council's senior floodplain management engineer Peter Garland.
They were angry they had been flooded with sewage overflow last Monday, in an identical fashion to flooding in February 2012. There were arguments about whether council should take more responsibility for cleaning the creeks.
Mr Garland said the council was restrained by environmental rules from cleaning out the creeks, as they were habitat for the vulnerable green and golden bell frog.
But the new works would go through an environmental impact assessment, as the impact of flooding on residents had increased.
He said the work would be completed within a year.
"It's been escalated," he said.
"It's clearly evident ... the social [impact] is taking over from the environmental and the design," he said.
Swan Street resident Linda Hogg welcomed the move but said the "real issue" is whether council would regularly clean out the culverts, as the build-up of silt clogged the waterway.
Cr Bradbery said the works had already been budgeted for and was not a reaction to the residents' anger. He said the whole area would be revisited.
Long-time Kembla Street resident Tony Virtu did not appreciate being told he lived in a "flood zone", and earlier had an angry confrontation with Mr Garland and Mr Hyde, who told him it was indeed a flood zone.
There was "nothing said about flood zones in 1998", when he built his house.
Mr Virtu said the channel was good news, but there were more problems with water blockages further downstream.