Wollongong residents should not expect vast changes to how the city deals with flooding problems, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery made clear in an interview with the Mercury this week.
Defending the slow pace of progress on flood mitigation works, Cr Bradbery said the cost of fixing the city's flood issues was beyond any council and could take more than 20 years.
In March this year, after heavy rains showed once more how vulnerable the city was to flooding caused by storms as the creeks proved inadequate to effectively drain stormwater from an increasingly built-up area, Cr Bradbery spoke out about the severity of the problem.
"What we spend on stormwater and stormwater management ... is vastly inadequate, as far as I'm concerned," Cr Bradbery said.
"We have these many creeks and stormwater patterns and drainage - it really is a huge problem that we've got to somehow or other get our head around."
The council's annual expenditure on stormwater management remains steady at about $2.5 million in the 2013-14 financial year.
The stormwater funding comes largely from a levy imposed on home owners.
The Mercury this week asked Cr Bradbery how much progress had been made on the "vastly inadequate spending" since March.
"I don't think we've made anywhere near significant change to that situation," he said.
"What I was trying to highlight was the magnitude of the issue, and where you're going to find the hundreds of millions of dollars we require.
"The magnitude of this problem and flood mitigation, stormwater management, these are massive big-ticket items and we just don't have that level of funds."
Cr Bradbery said the council's entire capital works budget was about $85 million, which even if it was all spent on flood mitigation, might not be enough.
"Even $100 million probably wouldn't address the issue. Out of a budget of $85 million, which we've allocated to capital works, we've allocated about $2.5 million [to stormwater management]. Ultimately, we have a huge problem.
"And I can't do much more, the council can't do much more, than what we're doing at the present time. I don't resile from what I said back then. All I can do is try and plug for more grants, from the Office of Environment and Heritage, federal sources, opportunities that come our way.
"The funding sources from federal government to local government, more specifically on this issue, have not been a rosy scene."
Cr Bradbery was not able to say whether there were funding applications that had been knocked back this year.
"I'm not across the funding opportunities this year but I know the stream that used to come from the federal government is really limited," he said.
"We're coming to the new budget. We didn't have time to do much about it this financial year [after the March floods] but we're coming up to the time when we set the budget for the new financial year 2015-16.
"No matter what this council throws at it, it will never be enough. You do need massive amounts."
With major engineering projects required, the costs are substantial. The cost of replacing culverts under the railway line are estimated at more than $4 million each, and Wollongong has many. The larger ones under the freeway could cost more.
Wollongong has already spent money - both its own and state grants - on the voluntary acquisition of about 50 flood-prone properties.
And millions have already been spent on flood mitigation works, as each floodplain management plan has been completed.
But many of the problems faced by this council are inherited from decisions made in previous decades.
The Lord Mayor said problems were faced when the land in question - for instance culverts, or a creek that is clogged - was owned by another agency.
"You need to remember that 60 per cent of problematic areas are not in council hands either," Cr Bradbery said.
"So you've got the other issue of the other players - Roads and Maritime Services, RailCorp and private landowners."
The Mercury asked Cr Bradbery if Wollongong residents should just accept there was a significant problem but not expect it to change any time soon.
He said the issue was always the large costs involved, so his job was to try to seek funding from other sources.
"We will do the best we can with the limited resources we can," he said.
"That's not to say that I'm not concerned about the implications of this. This is really concerning me.
"Where are we going to find the money to solve it?
"We can only deal with the immediate need and prioritise where we can, to apply what resources we can at the time. It's a juggling act all the time."
Cr Bradbery called on Wollongong's state MPs to become more involved in lobbying for funding for flood-related projects.
"There are four state seats in the Wollongong LGA and I hardly hear anything out of those state members on this particular problem," he said.
"They should be in State Parliament banging on about this problem.
"We get as many grants and opportunities as we can from the resources available to us. We apply as best we can. But it's got to be a concerted effort."
Cr Bradbery said while many in the community might not have seen his efforts to get more funding for Wollongong's flood mitigation needs, he had been working hard on it.
"It hasn't necessarily been out there at the level of you or the community seeing it," he said.
"But it's part of the whole continual effort on my part, and this council, of banging on doors.
"I really have not neglected this. I haven't made it in flashing lights but I agree with you."
Asked whether it could be an issue that could become his legacy after he left office, Cr Bradbery said there would not be enough time.
"It might be a wonderful legacy if I could do it, but I don't have that many years left because I don't think this is going to be solved within another two decades," he said.
"The amount of money that's required, and at the present rate it's being delivered, will not solve the problem ... unless our state and federal members come on board with funding streams that will facilitate this, and that's where we can make an impact.
"I'm already on that one but it's just like pulling teeth.
"It's a painful exercise. The amount of hammering I've done, not only RailCorp to get the work done, and our staff have been onto this as well.
"I've been banging on for years about the culvert issue.
"A legacy, yes, it would be wonderful but I have to be realistic.
"It's not as if it's not a dream or an aspiration that I have. But I have to face the realities.
"Even if the council tripled what's spent on stormwater works in the next budget, it still would not be enough."