Anger and frustration in people's voices is clear and strong when you talk to them about Conjola's lake entrance not being opened quickly enough when flooding looms.
Lake Conjola residents say they have been let down by Shoalhaven City Council's lack of action when it comes to opening the lake on far too many occasions.
Nichole Halcrow is in the middle of a clean-up job that will "take weeks" - and she's furious.
"Simply because it's avoidable," Nichole said as to why she and others were so angry.
"If that lake mouth was open then we would not be having this issue - this would not keep happening," she said as work was going on in the background to remove mud from one of the many properties.
Nichole, at times, could not put her frustration into words.
"Everyone has had enough," she said.
Marnie Hobbs kept the frustrated residents' theme going.
"Yes we have been through it a few times. You watch and see the lake rising, knowing it could be avoided. You know what you are going to walk into and it's pretty devastating," Marnie said.
Marnie said other coastal places [Narrabeen and Bermagui] with lakes nearby work with the Crown Lands effectively and she suggested Shoalhaven City Council could learn what to do from those areas to "get the right solutions".
"The effective lake management plan that happens in Bermagui and Narrabeen," is the model Marnie said Shoalhaven Council needs to follow.
Council believes it acted appropriately
"Given the rough conditions of the ocean, any pre-emptive work performed before midnight would have been undone with the incoming seas pushing sand back into the berm," a Shoalhaven council spokesperson said.
"Even if the lake had been opened earlier, similar levels would have been observed due to heavy rainfall conditions and ocean conditions."
The spokesperson said the area was not predicted to be hit by such a downfall.
"The storm on Tuesday night was not predicted to hit Shoalhaven by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), with the storm direction changing overnight and rainfall significantly exceeding the BoM forecast," the spokesperson said.
A "Lands Licence agreement" was abided by, according to the spokesperson.
"Council had deployed excavators to nearby locations to be on standby to manually open the lake if it reached the planned opening level of 1m AHD, as per the NSW Crown Lands Licence agreement," the spokesperson said.
"At 9pm, the lake was measured at 0.6m and BoM forecasts of 50-100mm of rain did not allow for the opening of the lake at that time.
"Between 2am and 4am, the recently closed lake reopened naturally as 200-400mm of rain fell in the catchment."
Too many clean-ups - not enough action say residents
Anthony [surname withheld] is sadly too experienced when it comes to cleaning up after a flood.
He had to clean up his own property as well as his mother's.
"It's a regular thing - every three to five years," he said.
"The thing is it's so preventable and we, as locals, almost know when it's coming," he said about the weather warning and when the lake should be opened.
"When we get a big downfall up in the catchment and it comes down and the lake's entrance is blocked, well it's going to back up and flood - it floods our houses."
He said the council "just seems not to see it" when an impending flood is coming and does not have to "foresight" to open the lake up."
"It's frustrating and we will push on," he said.
Anthony and his fellow residents want a long-term plan and proper practices to be put in place to fix the issue.
He said it was devastating to see houses "that you put so much effort and pride in" being gutted "year in and year out".
"When they [council] say they have a digger on standby they must know something is going to happen. They [council] know it's going to flood," Gaven said.
Gaven said the residents feel let down by a lack of action to open the lake.
Mardi adds a good point about environmental issues being the guideline to the lake's opening and letting "nature do its thing".
She says how is it good for the environment that piles of ruined possessions, like mattresses, [see above] will end up being sent to the tip?
"There has to be a bigger environmental impact of sending all those goods to the tip - it has got to be a worse outcome than opening the lake," she said.
In particular, they say all the damaged goods from the nearby caravan park will end up at the tip.
"It just does not make any sense," Mardi said about the whole process.
Council moves to help with the clean up
Council has waived disposal costs for flood-damaged waste for affected residents in Lake Conjola.
The Lake Conjola Recycling and Waste Depot will have extended opening hours to ensure residents can dispose of flood-damaged waste free of charge.
The depot will be open on the following days and times for free disposal of flood-damaged waste:
- Friday 1 December [8am - 3 pm]
- Saturday 2 December [8am - 3 pm]
- Sunday 3 December [8am - 3 pm]
- Monday 4 December [8am - 3 pm]
- Saturday 9 December [8am - 12:00 pm]
- Sunday 10 December [8am - 12:00 pm]
Lake Conjola residents will also be able to dispose of waste at the Ulladulla Depot.
Residents will be required to sign a declaration at the waste depot that the waste disposed of is a result of the November 2023 flooding event.
In addition to free tipping, large skip bins (15 cubic metres) will be provided for affected residents unable to attend the waste depots.
Bins will be placed at the Community Centre, Lake Conjola Entrance Road, Lake Conjola until Friday, December 8. Bins will also be monitored to ensure they're removed when full.