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Stormwater on private property

In an emergency

Contact the State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

Storm water issues

As a result of the Central Coasts climate and topography, flooding issues from stormwater can be a common problem for property owners. Flooding and nuisance issues from stormwater can sometimes result in damage to property and distress to residents. Stormwater is rainwater that runs off surfaces such as lawns, roads, roofs, car parks and natural ground surfaces. Stormwater that is unable to enter the underground drainage system will find its natural way to the nearest watercourse via overland flow paths. These overland flow paths are typically natural depressions (that often occur through private property), open channels, roadways and public reserves.

Property owner responsibilities

Property owners have a range of responsibilities, which if carried out correctly, will minimise the threat of stormwater damage in the event of heavy rain;

  • You must maintain your roof water drainage, stormwater pipes, gutters, downpipes, stormwater inlet pits and any other components of your approved drainage system on your property in good condition and in compliance with any Council requirements,
  • You are required to accept natural overland flow from adjoining properties or public land and must not divert, redirect or concentrate the flow from its natural path on to neighbouring properties,
  • It is important to note that a downstream property owner cannot erect any type of barrier by way of large walls or closed fencing that interferes with the path of stormwater - if you are downstream, you must accept the 'natural' run-off on to your property,
  • Ensuring that all buildings (including sheds) have an adequate storm water drainage system connected to a legal point of discharge (e.g. connected to kerb and gutter or inter-allotment drainage system),
  • When constructing hardstand areas you must control stormwater in order to prevent it from flowing on to adjacent property. It is preferable to minimise the area of water-resistant surfaces such as concrete or paved areas and driveways,
  • If there is an easement on your property it must be maintained and kept clear of debris to allow the natural flow of stormwater.

Property owners generally need to ensure that roof water and stormwater is drained to one of the following to comply with AS/NZS 3500.3:2003 Plumbing and Drainage Part 3: Stormwater Drainage.

  • Council street kerb and gutter,
  • An inter-allotment drainage system; or
  • Council controlled drainage easement or drainage reserve.

When Council may take action

Council Officers investigate and take action in relation to stormwater drainage complaints where it relates to the flow of surface water from one property across the common land boundary onto another property, and where the following criteria has been met;

  • Evidence being produced that substantiates the surface water has caused or is likely to cause physical damage to land or building on the other land; and
  • Surface water has been directed to and/or concentrated in a particular area by a man-made structure or drain; or
  • Surface water is the result of defective roof drainage from a building.

What you need to know

  • Photograph issue as it occurs
  • Consult with your neighbor first
  • Council may commence legal action
  • Maintain and repair your stormwater system
  • Identify the location and source of the issue


What if stormwater seems to be leading to a dispute between neighbours?

In the first instance, neighbours are encouraged to discuss issues between themselves directly. In more complex cases it might be necessary to seek the services of a stormwater engineer to design a stormwater management system for the particular circumstances involved.

If you become involved in a dispute the Community Justice Centre (phone 1800 990 777) offers free mediation for neighbourhood disputes.

When Council will not take action

Council Officers have the discretion to take no action or are unable to take action in the following circumstances;

  • Surface water run-off occurs only in periods of exceptionally heavy rainfall,
  • The surface water is natural run-off from the property or properties above due to the topography and isn’t redirected in any manner,
  • Surface water is flowing down and/or across existing hard surface areas such as driveways, tennis, courts, concrete slabs or paved areas,
  • The location of an existing dwelling, building or outbuilding impacts on surface run-off,
  • The run-off is from new development work that is the subject of a development consent and has been constructed in accordance with that consent,
  • The drainage problem involves discharges from defective or blocked private inter-allotment drainage easement infrastructure e.g. pipes and drainage pits. Note: private inter allotment easements are the responsibility of the property owners who are burdened by and/or benefited by the easement.

How to report a stormwater drainage issue

If you are experiencing stormwater issues as a result of stormwater being directed onto your property, by reporting an issue. When reporting a stormwater drainage issue on private land, please include the following information;

  • Describe what is occurring,
  • When did it occur and the frequency of occurence,
  • What is the source on the neighbouring land that is causing the problem,
  • Take photos of the stormwater problem as it is occurring,
  • Whether you made contact with Council about this issue previously,
  • Describe how your land and/or building are being damaged. (if possible include a written report from a suitably qualified person stating the land or building is likely to or is being damaged),
  • Whether you obtained professional advice as to the source of the stormwater issue,
  • Whether you liaised with your neighbour to address this matter,
  • Whether you sought advice or initiated mediation with your neighbour through the Community Justices Centre (details below).

Natural flow / Sloping blocks

Natural flow is the flow path down the slope following the contours of the land and occurs before any excavation, development or building. An upstream property owner cannot be held liable merely because surface water flows naturally from their land on to the lower land of a neighbor. The upstream property owner may be liable if the water is made to flow in a more concentrated form than it would naturally flow. Ideally, runoff should be directed to the street, or to a drainage system if provided.

Property owners need to be aware that landscaping can change the topography of a property and the way it distributes water. Council is unlikely to investigate stormwater complaints involving the natural flow of stormwater from one property to another.

Buildings currently under construction

Complaints about buildings under construction that are subject to a current building approval should, in the first instance, be referred to the responsible Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) or the builder. The details for the principal certifying authority and builder should be visible on the building sign on the front of the premises. The individual builder remains responsible for all stormwater installations permitted under the development consent whilst the building is under construction. In the event of a complaint, the PCA has enforcement powers and must take appropriate action under relevant legislation.

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